‘You betcha we’re open': Brainerd marketing campaign says city is open for business

Brainerd Council WebEx
Brainerd City Council and staff members discuss matters during a virtual meeting Monday, June 15, via WebEx. Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd City Council members saw updated designs for a citywide marketing campaign advertising businesses as open and ready to welcome patrons.

After the council approved up to $25,000 for the campaign in May, city staff learned through a survey of local businesses their biggest need is to let people know they are open.

Communications intern Jessie Ernster presented sample advertisements for the campaign during the council meeting Monday, June 15. To make sure the ads are specifically Brainerd focused, they use pictures of downtown Brainerd, including the “You Betcha” mural, in the background, with slogans like, “You betcha we’re open” and “Shop small. Shop safely.”

Brainerd marketing campaign
A sample ad, courtesy of the city of Brainerd, for the city's new marketing campaign aimed at letting community members know the city is open for business.

“(The slogans) kind of allow for longevity of the message because there will be a time in the future when the public will know that the stores are open,” Ernster said during the personnel and finance meeting prior to Monday’s council meeting. “And so by changing that into something, for example like, ‘We’re local,’ this marketing campaign does have legs to work in the long term.”


The ads also feature the city’s water tower seal and the logo for Lake Country Cares, a regional safe reopening campaign partnership with health providers and area chambers of commerce.

Committee member Tad Erickson said he loved the look of the ads.

“I think it was a good idea to put the city’s logo on there as well as the photo to make sure it’s Brainerd specific,” Erickson said. “And then also that item about longevity, I think that’s a good idea, too, to make it’s longer lasting than just this season.”

Council members approved the designs and authorized the purchase of a full-page ad in the Lake Country Journal for $2,300 and authorized $700 to begin rolling out the campaign on social media.

City Administrator Jennifer Bergman said the campaign will start out small — not spending the full $25,000 right away — so staff can continue to monitor the situation and see what else businesses need over the next 12-18 months.

Extension of premises

To further assist businesses, the council offered an extension of premises for bars and restaurants last month after Gov. Tim Walz allowed restaurants to open for outdoor seating only beginning in June.

Even though establishments can now serve customers indoors, the extension will last through Oct. 31, the council reaffirmed Monday, allowing establishments to use immediately adjacent public rights of way within 10 feet of the curb to expand service outdoors. Essentially, businesses can use public on-street parking spaces to extend their premises, but not sidewalks.

Since the practice went into effect June 1, six establishments were granted extensions: O’Neary’s Irish Pub, Knotty Pine Bakery, 5Rocks Distilling Co., Roundhouse Brewery, Brainerd American Legion Post No. 255 and Eagles Club 287.


Liquor license fees

Establishments that sell liquor will see reduced fees this year.

The council previously agreed to waive liquor license fees from March until businesses reopen and then reduce fees by 50% for the remainder of the year.

Because it may be difficult to determine when each establishment reopened, Finance Director Connie Hillman advised the council Monday to alter its last decision and waive the fees from March through June, regardless of whether places opened June 1 for outdoor seating, and then halve the liquor license fees for the rest of the year.

The council agreed, and renewals for liquor licenses — which run from July 1-June 30 — will be billed before the end of June with the prorated cost.

In the case of The Skillet, owner Ed Mattson will be refunded his liquor license fees for the cycle running July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, the council also decided Monday. Mattson requested the refund, as he was not able to sell alcohol during that time due to delays with the Minnesota Department of Health followed by a fire at the restaurant in October and then the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council agreed to refund the whole cost of $2,800.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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