GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s not the news that Michigan restaurants and bars wanted to hear, but it looks like the in-person dining ban will be extended for a couple more weeks.
The ban was set to expire Friday, Jan. 15, but it may get bumped again.
“Our number one priority, and please share this, is to get us open,” said Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.
Tuesday afternoon the group posted the notice on its Facebook page, and it’s already had several hundred shares. It told its members that they’ve talked to the governor’s office and learned the reopening of bars and restaurants would likely take place beginning Feb 1.
“We keep saying the numbers are dropping, we need to get reopened, our members have been doing this safely,” said Ellis. “We still argue that we disagree with the bars and restaurants are the problem, right? We’ve said that from day one; the numbers have not supported that.”
The reopening would likely include curfews and limited capacity guidelines, higher limits for those who take additional safety measures, along with the current practices of social distancing and using PPE.
Something Ellis says that bars and restaurants have already been doing for months.
“My initial response was I can’t believe this is happening, we thought we were gonna be there, my members thought we were gonna be there, what are we gonna do?” said Ellis.
“That gives us the most anxiety, not knowing,” said Chef Jenna Arcidiacono, who runs Amore in Comstock Park.
She calls the entire situation a ‘dumpster fire.’
“So what happens is the fire goes out, but then it comes back on and we aren’t actually getting communicated quickly enough to what’s gonna happen, so we’re just like standing on the edge waiting, and that’s the hardest part for us,” said Chef Jenna.
Her first shutdown came in March, meaning no St. Patrick’s Day crowd. Then they reopened in the summer for a bit only to be shut down before the holidays.
Businesses haven’t been told for sure what to expect yet, so they can’t prepare. Reopening at 50% is good news for some, but it can still be costly.
“50% is not awesome for us,” said Chef Jenna. “It’s awesome for the customer, but for us it’s double the work, double the money for us to spend at half of the profit, because we still have to pay 100% of our bills.”
Bars are also hurting. Project BarFly owns HopCat, GR Brewing Company and Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids.
“And all of our meetings, you know, it comes up several times that, 'Man only if we had a set date where we could just plan around it.' So, that’s kinda why we just set our own,” said VP of Operations Shawn Blonk.
His company has been planning everything around a moving target because the dates keep changing.
Which is almost impossible from a staffing and supply chain standpoint. Now, they at least have a couple more weeks.
“Staffing is number one. So, being able to properly write our schedules and staff our team members so they can make sure everybody’s ready to come back to work on time,” said Blonk.
Getting people back to work and customers back in the door has always been the main goal. That way, local companies can stay afloat and do what they love to do best.
“You can’t let us die. We are the creative, fun, heart and soul of what makes Grand Rapids great,” said Chef Jenna.
Ellis expects Governor Whitmer to announce the update Wednesday during her press conference where we should learn more about the extension.