Businesses battle to keep their doors open

NOW: Businesses battle to keep their doors open

NILES, Mich. -- As Michigan businesses continue to struggle to survive the latest pandemic shutdowns, the restaurant industry is being hit harder than ever.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association just released new data saying 1/3 of restaurant owners don’t expect to still be in business in six months.

The owner of Harvest Cafe in Niles took matters into her own hands and re-opened for dine-in not only for her loyal customers, but struggling employees.

“We had so many people say just please reopen, I want to come back in,” said owner Pamela Sebasty. “We did everything they asked us to do, we didn’t let the restaurant fill up past 50 percent, our waitresses even used mitts to carry food to and from the tables.”

But just two days later, they received a cease and desist from the Berrien County Health Department, bringing them back to carry-out only.

They say the epidemic order restrictions aren’t setting up restaurants to succeed.

“If you can go into big chain stores, I don’t understand why you can’t come into a small, very clean restaurant with an A+ rating from the health department,” said Sebasty.

Just down the road at Jay’s Lounge, their chef taking to social media with his plea for people to support local businesses.

“If you go out three times a week, make one of those times your favorite fast food place but the other two a local restaurant, they could benefit right now more than ever,” said James Brazo.

Because for now – that’s all that can be done to keep them alive.

“Everyone wants to show their support when it’s too late and we can’t wait until it’s too late to support these restaurants,” said Brazo.

The Berrien County Health Department responded with the following statement:

“Nothing about this pandemic has been easy. We’ve collectively experienced heartbreaking loss in 2020, both of lives lost due to COVID-19 and livelihoods impacted due to the economic fallout. The last thing we want to see is businesses close, but we do want to keep our community healthy and safe, and to slow the spread of this deadly virus. While we are still under Epidemic Orders from MDHHS, we can all do our part to fight COVID-19 and also support our local businesses and restaurants by ordering take-out, buying gift cards, or just simply donating to help support their workers during these tough times.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “Pause to Save Lives” epidemic order expires Dec. 20.

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