Hewitt's Woodtick Lounge is wrapping, not fully reopening
While they appear on a list of businesses set to reopen, owners say they won't be taking the risk.
Hot burgers, cold beer and quality customer service are attributes bar owners Pam and Jeff Wiirre like their Hewitt business, Woodtick Lounge, to be known for.
They also like it to be known as a business that will continue to serve the community for a long time to come. For that reason, even though their business name appeared on a list of others joining the "ReOpen Minnesota Coalition" campaign, owners said they will not defy the latest order put in place by Gov. Tim Walz. They will not be reopening their business to indoor dining. Not yet.
"After being in contact with some individuals in the cities through the MLBA, we are not going to do that, I am not for going against the governor, I am not for a $25,000 fine or having my license revoked," Jeff said. "I don't agree with the governor's order but I'm not going to go against it. We've put too much lock, stock and barrel into this over the last three years.
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The Wiirre's have remodeled the building and worked to build their business since 2017. They feel fortunate to be able to continue to serve the area even in a limited capacity. Jeff said they got on the list looking to stay up to date on what the coalition was up to, but was not looking to defy any orders.
"I get it and I applaud those who are willing to do it," Jeff said. "But I'm not in a position to do that."
It's not that the owners do not agree that they deserve to be open. They wholeheartedly believe they can and should be able to open their business. Jeff considers the current restrictions as discrimination against his business and others like it, while other big-box retail businesses are able to freely do business. He said perhaps if businesses across the state became more unified in this campaign, he could get on board. The Woodtick was not the only one on the list who said they were not actually reopening based on numerous Facebook comments on the coalition's page. No businesses were listed for nearby Wadena County and just a few were anonymously listed in Otter Tail County.
Despite the continued clamp down on indoor dining and gathering, the Woodtick owners and staff are finding ways to be merry this season. To further support the 257 Hewitt residents and the Woodtick employees, staff are providing gift wrapping. The service came about as a way to help supplement the pay of waitresses who normally depend on tips. With no indoor services allowed, their tips now come as they wrap up gifts for anyone looking for a hand. Pam said the idea came from her personal displeasure in wrapping gifts.
And while business' income may not be what it could be, they are offering help to the community by putting up a "Giving Tree" in the bar. Locals are asked to come in and request needs they may have this season and those who can help have been giving.
"A lot of people have said they will donate," Pam said.
"It's a tough time for everybody and we feel fortunate enough to be able to do something ... you know the community and surrounding community can try to help everybody out the best they can," Jeff said.
Jeff said customers have been supportive of the business by showing patronage through the closures. The bar continues to offer regular specials to feed the hungry and thirsty.