MI restaurants move to 50% capacity, 11 p.m. curfew

STEVENSVILLE, Mich. -- Michigan’s more relaxed restrictions on restaurants went info effect Friday, with them now operating at 50% capacity and having an 11 p.m. curfew.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement Tuesday, five days after Berrien County commissioners and the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber sent a resolution to Whitmer requesting a regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions.

While they never got a response, they say the news was still a win for the restaurant industry in showing citizens’ voices being heard.

“Public pressure on the office of Gov. Whitmer to reopen is what’s moving the needle even faster and farther,” said Arthur Havlicek, President & CEO of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber.

Restaurants are still grappling with the economic fallout of dine-in being closed for three months – specifically, with rehiring employees.

“It’s difficult for the employer to entice them back because they’re making more money on unemployment, or saw a less restrictive environment like Indiana where they can rely on a certain number of hours a week to be able to put food on their own table,” said Havlicek.

At Santaniello’s Ristorante in Stevensville, they’ve been in the community for 60 years and were determined to not let a single employee go.

“We just found a spot for them to continue working so they could survive when we were shut down, we just came up with new ways to make it work,” said co-owner Rosanna Santaniello.

But, they still haven’t seen dine-in numbers return to what they were before the state’s “Pause” began in November.

“In the beginning, it was 50/50 and then after a couple of weeks we started to see dine-in pick back up,” said Santaniello. “Being open at 50%, although it’s great, it’s not pushing us to where we need to be to get back on track.”

The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber also joined a coalition with other Michigan chambers asking Gov. Whitmer to lift remote work requirements on April 14th, as they say getting people back into offices will subsequently increase dine-in numbers as well.

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