Restaurant owners, patrons face backlash on new guidelines to prevent spread of COVID-19

Studio Grill in Kalamazoo
Posted at 4:43 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-14 20:17:36-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Bars and restaurants across Michigan are facing increased requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which is causing some backlash from patrons and business owners.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is asking restaurants and bars to collect names and phone numbers of patrons, and to limit tables to six people. They're also asking indoor venues to limit capacity to a maximum of 50 guests, down from 500.

Some restaurants in Kalamazoo said they can't seem to catch a break.

"You know everyday someone says, ‘Oh how are you doing?’, and I go ’Terrible, what do you mean? How do you think any restaurant is doing?'. We are all suffering. We are bleeding financially. We don’t know how long we can stay up," said Food Dance Cafe Owner and Executive Chef Julie Stanley.

2020 has been a stressful one for Stanley and her restaurant, and the new state guidelines are only making matters worse.

Craig Dotson, the owner of Studio Grill said those guidelines from the state health department requiring them to ask for a patron's personal information is over the top.

"You come in as my guest, I take your name, your phone number, your first born child? I don’t know. It’s ridiculous," said Studio Grill Owner Craig Dotson.

While some restaurants already have measures in place that make contact tracing easy, Stanley said she will follow the requirements, even knowing some people won't like it.

"I do expect some backlash from guests, and to that I would only say to everyone that is struggling with this, everyone gives their name and phone number a thousand times. Do I know if it’s the right name and phone number? No, but if you’re waiting for your table you’ll give me the right name and phone number," said Stanley.

With an already 50% capacity for bars and restaurants, MDHHS is now asking them to also limit six people to a table.

That's one requirement Dotson said he can get behind.

"If you come in with a party of eight people, I will offer to split you or I can’t accommodate you. I am sorry," said Dotson.

"We happen to have a lot of square footage inside of our space, and we are not even maximizing it yet since we are at 50% capacity. I think we will be able to do okay with that. We will just see," said Stanley.

MDHHS said those not following the rules can face up to a $1,000 fine.

Patrons who don't comply to those rules can be denied service.

The contact tracing guideline will go into effect Monday, November 2.