Residents protest after restaurant is penalized for reopening
NILES, Mich. -- A group came together in protest Thursday against the continued closure of small businesses in Michigan.
The demonstration was organized after a cease and desist was sent to Harvest Café from the Berrien County Health Department for reopening for dine-in.
“If you can go to the casinos, go and get your nails done, and you can walk around Walmart for a couple hours and shop, what’s it hurting to sit down and have a nice meal,” said protest organizer Melissa Kelley.
Kelley and her husband couldn’t wait to head into Harvest Café when they saw the Facebook post that the restaurant was welcoming diners back in.
But it was short lived, after the restaurant was ordered to go back to carry-out only just two days later.
Harvest Café owner Pamela Sebasty said she only opened her doors to try and help her struggling employees and never expected this reaction from her community.
“We had nothing to do with it, they actually were going to surprise me with it, they organized this so they could show support for all small businesses, this isn’t just about mine,” said Sebasty.
While she was flattered by the surprise protest, Sebasty was also weary of people receiving the same negativity she got for reopening.
“That made me feel so good that people cared, a little nervous because a lot of those people are my friends and I don’t want them to get any kind of hate.”
But for those who showed up, they felt it was time to take a stand.
“I think we need to find a way to work with it and that way we can still make a living and come together and support our businesses,” said Kelley. “We’re losing enough as it is and I don’t want to see anymore empty buildings.”
Amidst the protest organized by residents, Harvest Café delivered free meals to healthcare workers at Lakeland Hospital as part of Pay it Forward Michiana.