Medeas Cafe in Clarkfield is in danger of closing after a 2018 audit determined that a City/Economic Development Authority can not own and operate a cafe. This decision means that the Clarkfield EDA must stop the operation of the cafe as it exists today. In response to the decision the Clarkfield EDA held a public meeting on Monday, “We are looking to the community for input and solutions.” the Clarkfield EDA said in a statement.
The meeting was well attended by concerned residents who wanted to see a restaurant remains open in the town. The EDA board explained that there were two main options they were looking into, community members possibly forming a co-op to take the business over or privatising the business. There was another option where the EDA could continue to operate the cafe if the city had a golf course or a liquor store was attached to it. Both of those options are unlikely.
It was pointed out that the business space can’t be sold for about two more years due to an existing contract between the EDA and F&M Bank. the contract stipulates that the space can’t be sold but it can be leased. The EDA is hoping to find someone to lease the space or find a group to take the business over.
A resident asked the board what the profits and expenses were each month, City Administrator Amanda Luepke said that the business expenses were about $15,000 a month and revenues were around $7,000 a month. Additional future costs would include patchwork on the ceiling and a new oven that is desperately needed. A consensus among some of the residents was that no one would want to take over a business that was losing money and that the problem would need to be solved before anyone would take it over. On the other side it was argued that starting a business would require an investment early on and that eventually it would be profitable.
The Rivers restaurant in Montevideo had shown interest in opening a second location in Clarkfield in the past. The possibility of contacting the business to see if they were interested in the location was also discussed but was viewed as unlikely to happen. Transferring ownership of the restaurant to the City of Clarkfield was suggested but Lupke said it would affect residents taxes and she was unsure if the council would even accept it. One resident suggested posting more signage to help advertise the restaurant more with the hope it would bring more people passing through town into the cafe.
No decisions were made by the board but the hope is that a group of community members could possibly step up and form a co-op and take over the restaurant.
Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha provided a statement on the Clarkfield EDA Facebook page saying, “I am glad you are coming together to find solutions for the cafe. As your State Auditor, know that I want to see you succeed here too.”
“The State Auditor's Office doesn't take stances on these issues but we do try to help people understand state law. Our understanding of what an EDA can do here based on state law hasn't changed and we can't change the law ourselves.”
“In fact, if I could take a stance to clear this all up I would, but I just don't have that authority. It's good to see your auditors and staff take these issues seriously and respond so quickly. We are happy to brainstorm with you all about options you can take here and I've appreciated the conversations I've already had with your members this past few days. Our legal department is ready to talk with you when you are ready.” Blaha Said.