A small number of businesses have decided to pause indoor dining this month after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s April 9 suggestion that Michigan diners choose not to eat inside restaurants for two weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Give your favorite restaurant your business, sit in the outside area or get take out,” she reiterated during Wednesday’s press conference addressing the pandemic. In her remarks Friday, she stressed that the recommendation wasn’t a mandate but that “we all know what works and this has to be a team effort.”
Nationally recognized Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor announced to customers last week that it would take action after Whitmer’s advice, and has closed indoor dining at its Next Door Cafe, adjacent to the deli. “Out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of you and our staff, we will be following her recommendation,” reads a statement on its website.
Another major player in the state’s food scene, Slows Bar BQ, announced on Sunday that its dining rooms at the Corktown and Grand Rapids locations would close until at least April 28. The barbecue favorite will continue to serve and take reservations for outdoor dining at both restaurants.
“We feel a responsibility to our teams and to our customers to keep them safe, so for us this feels like the right decision and hopefully it is only a short-term pause,” said co-owner Terry Perrone, adding that the decision to cease indoor dining for now “isn’t easy.”
“Our sales were trending upward with dine-in improving in both Grand Rapids and Corktown every week,” he said, adding that Slow’s is in a unique position because they have carryout, catering and outdoor dining options.
Feast, a new chef-driven restaurant in Chesterfield Township, is temporarily pausing service until April 21 to “get ahead of this pandemic,” the restaurant posted on social media: “We at Feast are taking precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus.”
Loui’s Pizza, a staple in Hazel Park serving Detroit-style pizza since the 1970s, is once again offering carryout only through at least the remainder of the month. The family-owned business was cautious earlier this year, opting not to reopen for indoor dining in June when it was allowed. An employee tested positive last week, and on Wednesday the restaurant communicated to customers that they would be closing the dining room until further notice.
“Hopefully Michigan numbers will go down as more (people) receive vaccines,” reads a Facebook post. “Please stay safe, stay healthy. Mask up, wash your hands and social distance. We’ll keep you posted when we switch to inside dining.”
In March 2020, the state mandated that all bars and restaurant close for any dine-in service (outside or inside) to help curb the spread of the virus. On June 8, they were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Indoor dining was shut down again in the fall through February when interior seating was allowed at 25% capacity with a 10 p.m. curfew. Last month that was extended to 50% capacity and an 11 p.m. curfew.
“At the beginning of this, I didn’t see this going away until maybe a couple years,” owner Greg Mudge told The Detroit News last week. “I was prepared, in my head, to keep this dining room closed and operate as carryout and outside-only for a couple years.”
“I’ve never even rode that roller coaster of open-close, open-close,” he said. Instead he’s ramped up online ordering of food and drinks and built out a walk-up carryout window to allow for easier, safer carryout service.
“My restaurant is too small. I don’t think it’s safe yet,” he said.
Over the past month, many restaurants have chosen to temporarily close for a few days up to one week after one or more staff members tested positive for COVID-19. This included a variety of food businesses from frozen custard stand Wally’s in St. Clair Shores to eclectic neighborhood restaurant Hazel, Ravine & Downtown in Birmingham.
The latest is award-winning, modern Detroit restaurant Selden Standard, where for the first time a team member tested positive Wednesday. Although most of the staff is vaccinated, they alerted customers via social media that the business will be closed Thursday and Friday while they await COVID-19 test results “to ensure a safe environment for both our colleagues and guests.”
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