Michigan restaurants open with 50% capacity under loosened restrictions

Posted at 5:34 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 16:09:51-05

(WXYZ) — While all restaurants are struggling right now, the road to recovery looks different depending on who you ask, and it comes as loosened COVID-19 restrictions go into effect on Friday.

Restaurants haven't been the same for nearly a year now, and under the loosened restrictions, they can have 50% capacity inside and stay open an hour later until 11 p.m.

The business owners we spoke to all agree it's a step in the right direction, but will it be enough to keep some of these businesses afloat?

“We’ve had people that used to come in two, three, four times a week that we haven’t seen in 11 months," Chief Shannon Nowowiecki from Corner Kitchen in St. Clair Shores said.

Nowowiecki took the leap of faith to open a new restaurant about a year and a half ago, with no idea what was ahead of him.

“Our eight-month anniversary, March 16, that was the first shut down. And my partner and I, we’ve discussed this at length. We were eight months old and we said to each other, 'if we close now we probably will never open up again,'" Nowowiecki added.

But prior to today's new allowance for 50% capacity, they were facing a dilemma being a smaller-size restaurant: Was it worth it to keep the lights on for so few customers? Now, larger restaurants are facing a dilemma.

“For us we have very large restaurants so it’s still a hindrance in running your business," Rosalie Vicari, co-owner of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, said.

Vicari said of the 50%, which is only up to 100 people. Last Sunday, Joe Vicari Restaurant Group had to close one of their landmark spots – Andiamo in Dearborn.

“We did not think we were going to get that business back," she said.

Gary Enos runs the Falls Sports Lounge in Dearborn. He hasn't seen a paycheck in a while, in an effort to keep paying his staff. Despite that, he's a glass-half-full kind of business manager right now.

"We’ve been a strong business for 25 years so we should be OK. We’re going to get through this. I’m more concerned about the businesses that aren’t going to make it through this," Enos said.

More than 3,000 restaurants have already closed their doors for good, according to the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, which reports industry job losses in the hundreds of thousands.

“It’s still putting a band-aid on a cut that you should be going to the emergency room for," Enos said.

In addition to the 50% capacity and 11 p.m. curfew, tables must be six feet apart and there cannot be more than six people per table.

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