How the man behind Minneapolis' first Black-owned vegan restaurant is fighting for Black Lives Matter

The Minneapolis vegan restaurant Trio Plant-based gave meals out to people protesting the killing of George Floyd.

  • Trio is the first Black-owned vegan restaurant in the city, and is struggling to keep up with orders during the pandemic because it's understaffed.
  • Owner Louis Hunter has long supported the Black Lives Matter movement, and was involved in protests after his cousin, Philando Castile, was killed in 2016.
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Minneapolis restaurant Trio Plant-based gave out 300 vegan meals to people protesting the police killing of George Floyd in late May.

It's just one of the ways owner Louis Hunter has supported the Black Lives Matter movement in recent years.

The issue hits especially close to home for Hunter. His cousin, Philando Castile, was killed by a Minnesota police officer in 2016 , igniting protests in St. Paul and other cities. After attending one of the protests to demand justice for his cousin, Hunter was charged with two counts of rioting .

He met a couple that helped him get the charges dropped and then they founded Trio together in 2018. In 2019, Hunter became the sole owner of Trio, making it the first Black-owned vegan restaurant in Minneapolis.

"Most customers, no, they don't know that we're Black-owned," Hunter told Business Insider Today. "They don't know because of what area I'm in. I'm in a predominantly white neighborhood, which is uptown Minneapolis."

The week that Floyd was killed, Hunter was giving an interview to Unicorn Riot when state troopers pushed him inside his restaurant.

"I did not want to feel what I felt two and a half years ago during Philando's murder," Hunter told Business Insider Today. "And that brought back so much anger. And my anxiety kicked in. Hurt, pain, that they would never care to come try to apologize, to fix."

Maintaining a restaurant during a time of social unrest and a pandemic is no easy task. With a shortage of cooks, Hunter makes much of the food himself, from homemade falafel burgers to barbecue jackfruit riblets.

On top of that, he's worried about keeping his restaurant in this expensive area.

"If they decide to raise my rent because everything's getting raised around here, I don't have the credit to get a loan," he said. "Black-owned businesses need funding. If we don't have funding, the business don't last."

In 2014, banks rejected more than half of all new loan applications from Black-owned businesses in the US, according to the Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs . Meanwhile, less than a quarter of applications from white-owned businesses were rejected.

That's why Hunter is turning to GoFundMe to help him stay in business. The fundraiser has raised more than $170,000 since it was established last year.

"If you are doing this because I'm Philando's cousin or anything, please circle that money to his mom . We want them to get it if that's what it's for," Hunter said. "But if it's for us, we thank you in advance. We love you. We're all in this together. Let's keep fighting. Black lives matter."

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