Many Lowertown business owners are eager for the 2021 baseball season to begin at CHS Field, as the Saint Paul Saints become the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. But a longer season and the chance for fans to see players in development to be called up to the major leagues are just two reasons for the excitement.

“We’re really excited about the new development for the Saints,” said Joe Spencer, president of the Downtown Alliance. “We’re looking forward to more fans coming into downtown for many years to come.”

“I haven’t heard anything but excitement from constituents,” said City Council member Rebecca Noecker, whose Ward 2 includes downtown.

Lowertown’s bars and restaurants have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and forced business changes. Just/Us, Birch’s Lowertown Tap Room & Barrel House, 12welve Eyes Brewing, Salty Tart and Octo Fish Bar are among the businesses that have closed permanently. A few other restaurants have paused for the winter months and hope to reopen this spring. Others that have remained open have lost a significant percentage of their sales.

“It’s been tough,” said Jerry Blakey, owner of Lowertown Wine and Spirits, 262 E. Fourth St. “It’s been like a ghost town down here. It’s been devastating for bars and restaurants.”

“It’s been tough,” said Jerry Blakey, owner of Lowertown Wine and Spirits, 262 E. Fourth St. “It’s been like a ghost town down here. It’s been devastating for bars and restaurants.”

Business owners see the Saints’ new Triple-A status as a definite plus. “It’s 20 more (home) games,” said Steve Lott, owner of Big River Pizza, 280 E. Fifth St. “Anytime there’s activity in Lowertown, be it a parade, festival or any other event, it’s a good thing.”

“The No. 1 upshot of having the Saints here is that we could always bank on a certain amount of business,” said Andy Remke of Black Dog Cafe, 308 E. Prince St. “We always do well on game days. Every day there’s a game, we can count on additional patronage.”

The demographics of who will attend Saints games with a Twins affiliation going forward is an open question, according to Remke. “It’s been a very family-oriented crowd with the Saints,” he said. “We’ve been wondering if having a Twins affiliate will bring in more younger adults. I guess we’ll see.”

— Jane McClure

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