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West Michigan businesses call for state, federal assistance

Posted at 9:14 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 23:14:26-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — West Michigan businesses are pleading with leaders at the state and federal level to pass a relief package after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended restrictions Friday.

“Just getting a little too tight right now,” said Mike Urbane, owner of Fat Boy. “Wrong time of the year to be shutting down.”

Urbane bought Fat Boy 12 years ago after spending his childhood at the Northeast Grand Rapids restaurant.

“When we were in high school, we all hung out here,” said Urbane.

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He now worries time is running out for Fat Boy as they face another month of no indoor dining. He says while delivery and take out is doing okay, it’s still not enough to pay the bills.

With no state or federal assistance right now, he worries he may need to lay off some of his 10 employees. Urbane started a GoFundMe this week incase help doesn’t come.

“My electric bill doesn’t stop, my gas bill doesn’t stop, my water bill doesn’t stop,” said Urbane. “My employees get paid every two weeks, that doesn’t stop. Yeah, we just need the funds. That’s all there is to it.”

Joel Wabeke is in a similar position. He owns three restaurants in the city, including Little Bird.

When asked if he knew what his year-over-year sales were, Wabeke said, “I do, but I don’t want to say. We are definitely down, we are definitely down. We used to have a staff of, you know, 20 or more. Now, we have one person in front and me and two other people in back.”

Wabeke says between $20,000-50,000 would be enough for his businesses to make it through the winter.

“We need it,” said Wabeke. “If you want us around, not just us, but anyone, if you want us around, you’ve got to support us.”

Even businesses with restrictions lifted Friday, like theaters and concert venues, called on state and federal leaders to act.

The Kalamazoo State Theatre says it’s not worth it financially to operate at a 100-person capacity with no concessions.

“The margins in the entertainment industry are very small and we need to rely on that high capacity and concessions to make events work,” said Stephanie Hinman, executive director.

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Hinman adds members of theMichigan Independent Venue and Promoters Association have reported a 90 percent revenue loss.

MIVPA is currently pushing Michigan legislatures to set up a $10 million grant fund.

“The venue and promoters message isn’t, ‘ We need to open right now,’ because we want to be very clear… we know it’s not safe. You need a packed hall and now’s not the time for a packed hall.”