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Ryan Palmer has been busy advising restaurant owners during shutdowns mandated during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Restaurant clients seek advice during pandemic

Name: Ryan Palmer

Title: Partner, Lathrop GPM

Education: B.A., English, St. Olaf College; J.D., University of St. Thomas School of Law

Ryan Palmer, partner and leader of Lathrop GPM’s restaurant group, is hearing from clients across the country who are struggling under closures ordered in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Minnesota, Palmer said, business was down for some by a third before Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close or limit access from March 17 through Friday, March 27 — with an extension beyond that likely.

A delivery-carry out model won’t work for dine-in restaurants because of high fixed costs, Palmer said. Delivery and carryout places are ramping up but it may not save the business.

“The adaptations you’re seeing now are really desperate acts of survival,” Palmer said.

On the plus side, Palmer said, “Restaurant owners are some of the most resilient entrepreneurs out there. Many or most will tell you they’ll make it through this. But it’s really the toughest test they’ve ever faced.”

Palmer advises simplifying menus and monitoring regulatory changes, such as states allowing beer and liquor sales with carryout packages. “Grab sales wherever you can,” Palmer said.

He’s also telling clients to join state and regulatory groups advocating for legislative relief for restaurants.

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: At the moment it’s from an appropriate social distance of 6 feet.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A: I always liked research and writing, helping people solve problems, so law school seemed like a good way to do that and to make use of an English major.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: The current kid selection is “Pete the Cat’s Train Trip.” I’m finishing “Lake of the Ozarks” by Bill Geist.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Slow walkers, in the skyway in particular.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: Learning about a client’s business, designing solutions for challenges they’re facing and getting to do it with the great team at LGPM

Q: Least favorite?

A: Time entry.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: Going for a run is the best way to clear my head. Beyond that, travel and restaurants are high on the list. Before kids, my wife, Aly, and I took adventurous trips to places like India and Egypt and didn’t understand people who went to resorts and sat by the pool. Now we try to find a resort and sit by the pool.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: In summer, we’d go on bike ride around the lakes and stop for dinner at Bread & Pickle. In the winter we’d go to the Walker, the Sculpture Garden and then head across for dinner in the lounge at P.S. Steak.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: I’ve had a lot of good mentors and people who have been really generous to me. One who stands out is [the late] Randy Evans. He was a shareholder at Monroe Moxness Berg. He taught me how to be a lawyer — how to draft, how to analyze contracts, but most of all how to solve problems. I still think about him every time I’m marking up a document.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: That we have these magical “Perry Mason” moments. The reality is much more ordinary: You work a project, you solve the problems and there usually isn’t one event that will drastically change the trajectory of it.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: The best depiction was in “The West Wing.” In college we had weekly parties. I just finished listening to a podcast called “The West Wing Weekly,” which analyzed each episode. It was a good way to flex my nerdy English major muscles.

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