KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Craig Dotson opened the Studio Grill early Monday morning, he thought they’d only fill five or 10 tables.
He was wrong. His staff was busy all day and it felt great, he said.
“Feels like the first day I opened the restaurant 10 years ago,” Dotson said during an interview with FOX 17. "It’s just very exciting [and] a little emotional.”
Dotson opened the restaurant for the first time since late-March when the governor's stay-at-home executive order went into effect due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, they did take-out service only, which was tough on their business, he said.
“We’ve been doing 45-50 percent of our normal business,” Dotson said. “Thank God I got the PPP loan. That saved me.”
Now, dine-in customers are helping Studio Grill rebound and Dotson was glad to see them, he said.
They were too.
“The owner is here every single day,” said customer Scott Flynn who dined outside with a friend. “I think that kind of love for your business, that’s what brings people in.”
Customer Randall Warren had the same sentiment.
Warren said he comes to the restaurant frequently and not just because of the ‘amazing’ food. He said the staff is always 'friendly and personable.’
“It’s delightful to be back,” Warren said. “I come to the restaurant about once a week. Always sit here, have a good meal, maybe do a little work and it feels like home.”
Warren added that it was great to be ‘out of the house and at a restaurant.’ He had a bowl of vegan chili and next to him on the table was his mask.
“Obviously everybody has to wear a mask,” Dotson said about the restaurant's new rules. “We have to go to single-use items which is very expensive because it’s all to-go items.”
Dotson made a few other changes to the restaurant considering they’re only allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. So, he left chairs on certain tables to create social distancing.
“It’s a whole new world,” Dotson said. “We’ve adapted to it I believe and after today we've done a great job so far.”