Michigan extends closure of indoor dining at restaurants

NOW: Michigan extends closure of indoor dining at restaurants

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- It’s now been nearly two months since Michigan’s Pause to Save Lives began and despite gyms, entertainment venues and some sports being able to operate more freely, nothing has changed for restaurants since November.

“We need to really stop referring to it as a pause, because the three week pause ended 35 days ago, this is now in effect a 10-week shutdown that’s going to be devastating for these businesses,” said Arthur Havlicek, President & CEO of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber.

For the Buck Burgers & Brew, being open through the summer tourist season was a blessing because operations have been completely suspended since November 18, when the state announced all restaurants and bars could no longer have indoor dining.

“We looked back at the numbers that we had in May, before we were able to open up and it just didn’t make financial sense for us to bring everybody in, open the kitchen and start our day at the expense level we’d have for to-go orders,” said owner Ken Kozminski.

Kozminski also said the idea that restaurants can’t safely operate amid the pandemic, while other industries can, is the hardest to grapple with.

“It’s actually a travesty in many regards, we’ve taken extreme steps to sanitize, put up plexiglass, space out our restaurants, reduce our seating,” said Kozminski.

Meanwhile, he’s also been trying to get another business off the ground – a new butcher shop called State Street Meats.

“The whole reason we moved forward is for us to be able to have an essential business, we’re also trying to defend ourselves against future decision making,” said Kozminski. “Currently, the employees who are working here are those who were on unemployment at The Buck.”

Leaders in Berrien County also say residents have been doing things safely and should be trusted to dine-in responsibly, too.

“We still need to be vigilant in our everyday actions but to think that restaurant operators who have to follow safety protocols and precautions on a daily basis, just due to the nature of their industry, can’t effectively serve their customers like 47 other states are doing, I vehemently disagree,” said Havlicek.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a tentative date of February 1 for restaurants to re-open.

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