ROCKFORD, Mich. — Some businesses impacted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ extension of its health orders say they’re not surprised by Monday’s announcement.
“It’s been an interesting journey to say the least,” said Matt Valleua, general manager at Rockford Brewing Company.
Valleua says offering only take out and delivery service is the new normal for the restaurant. Inside dining reopened briefly in October but closed back down after the MDHHS issued its restrictions on indoor social gatherings in mid-November. Valleua says they anticipated the department’s decision.
“We know that the model we’ve built throughout the year worked, and so we just pivoted right back to that same model,” said Valleua.
While Rockford Brewing’s sales have fluctuated anywhere from a 25 to 70 percent decrease year-over-year, Valleua says the company agrees with the extension and is confident they’ll be able to survive.
“This is our space, but we’re inviting the public here,” said Valleua. “We want you to feel like part of our family when you show up, so part of that is making sure as many people in our community are able to come here and enjoy this setting when it’s safe to do so.”
Jim Frey, owner of Northfield Lanes in Grand Rapids, is also not shocked. He says the bowling alley is financially okay but explains the winter is their busy season, and losing a month of profits hurts. According to Frey, Northfield Lanes has laid off 34 employees, most of them part-time. He’s worried about businesses that are not as established as his. “We’ve lost three businesses in the area, and I expect we’ll probably lose more,” said Frey.
In its announcement, the state said reopening high schools then entertainment businesses will be its priority once it's in a position to do so, but Frey wants more freedom, hoping as health and state leaders will make it a priority to let Michiganders make their own decisions.
“The worst part is you kind of get the feeling that your government is working against you, I mean you really do,” said Frey. “I mean, employees were taken care of in the springtime when you had the federal assistance for unemployment. That hasn’t been around (since) that ended in July, so you get a maximum of $362 a week, which if someone has a mortgage and a car payment, that’s not very good. You feel like they don’t have your interests at heart. You feel a little bit abandoned.”