MI businesses push for relief as restrictions extend

Local News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich, (WOOD) — Restaurants and bars are again contending with a partial closure after the state health department extended a three-week COVID-19 epidemic order on dining rooms, entertainment venues and bars.

The order also impacts some gyms, requiring gym owners to cease group workouts.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association says at the end of the 12-day extension, restaurant dining rooms will have been closed for 118 days or about one third of the year.

“We aren’t surprised by the governor’s decision to extend Director (Robert) Gordon’s MDHHS Order (Monday), but we remain exceptionally disappointed,” said Michael Odom, a spokesperson for the MRLA. “We firmly believe there is a better approach — one followed by 45 other states — that doesn’t use blunt force closure of a single industry to resolve a shared crisis.”

“We maintain that a more nuanced approach that allows for limited indoor capacity with a curfew will result in greater compliance, better health outcomes and substantially reduced economic fallout,” Odom continued.

The MRLA predicts about 2,000 restaurants and bars have closed as a result of the restrictions. They predict about 6,000 more could close in the coming weeks. West Michigan restaurant owners say as the days go on without a relief package, things are getting more difficult.

“You can’t prepare for what we’re going through right now. You really can’t. You can’t foresee what you’re facing when you’re spending umpteen thousands of dollars while you’re shut down to keep the lights on, gas going, everything else running,” said Charles Fisher with Putt Putt’s Bar on the city’s West Side.

Fisher says because he’s owned his establishment for about 35 years, they’ve been able to manage, but it hasn’t been easy.

Owners of recently opened businesses say 2020 has changed their business too.

“It’s affecting us a lot. Pretty much, we don’t have the walk-in customers like we used to,” said Michael Buxton with Load A Spud on Madison Avenue. We get people from all demographics. So, a person doesn’t want to travel from Sparta, drive an hour and a half, or whatever the distance is. They don’t want to come here, get their food and leave. They want to come sit down.”

Buxton says as a result, they’ve lost about 40% of business. The company offers catering also. Buxton says they used to get a few catering orders a week. Now, they’re lucky to see one a month.

Restaurant owners say they’re hoping their tables don’t remain empty too much longer or they could join those who have been forced to close.

“This place has been a part of me a lot longer than everybody else … and I’ve been down here. To lose this, I don’t think I can handle that. I really couldn’t,” Fisher said of his bar.

The 12-day extension is now set to expire on Dec. 20. Lawmakers are currently working on COVID-19 relief bill that would give money to hospitals, airlines and small businesses.

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