GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The restaurant industry in Michigan is facing a crisis. As many as 2,000 restaurants have already closed due to financial problems after the pandemic, and more are set to follow if things don't change soon.
But the solution is much more complicated than simply opening back up again, according to one restaurant group owner Eric Chaitin.
In fact, Chaitin chose to close the restaurant part of his group, River and Odi, which owns Matchbox Diner in Grand Rapids.
Eric says it's a tough choice because they wouldn't have enough take-out business to stay open and have it make sense financially for them and their employees.
But he's hoping for a change so he's no longer caught in between a rock and a hard place.
“There’s an awful lot of politics involved, as we all know. And almost as if there’s a game of chicken being played,” Chaitin said.
Eric says he doesn't care the political affiliation of whoever comes up with a plan for their industry. He says arguing about who's fault it is doesn't help the situation either.
But he's hopeful someone will come up with a plan.
With another 8,000 or so restaurants that could close by spring if the industry continues to decline, Eric hopes that solution comes soon.
Eric says even if they get to re-open, at 50% capacity, they were barely making it by. He says as the pandemic numbers rise, the number of people willing to go out to eat declines.
“And it’s totally out of our control. I don’t see anyone asking for a handout..." but I think this game of chicken between the decision-makers has got to stop,” Chaitin said.
Eric is asking for bipartisanship, and a plan for the thousands of local restaurants he fears could close their doors if things don't change soon.
“And if this goes until spring, we’re going to lose about another 6 thousand. You can do the math on how that affects grocery shopping, and mortgages, and rent, etc, etc,” Chaitin said.
Chaitin says the only way he feels anything can get done, is if decision-makers leave what happened in the past behind them, and treat this crisis as a new one they are facing.