GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With COVID-19 cases reaching high levels in West Michigan, bars and restaurants are working to navigate the risk as many people gather with friends and family the night before Thanksgiving.

It is often referred to as “the busiest bar night of the year” and businesses are wondering what the final customer volume will be in 2021.

Chris Cutting, the general manager of the downtown Peppino’s Pizzeria and Sports Grille, says the business is continuing to take precautions by spacing tables, staggering seating and using expanded sanitation techniques.

Last year it was takeout only the day before Thanksgiving. This year, Peppino’s is still seeing a strong delivery business, especially with some people not comfortable dining out.

“We’re happy to be open and we’re also happy to work hard to provide a great, safe experience for our guests so they can come in and just have some sense of peace,” Cutting said.

Stacey Wesorick, a regular customer, says she feels comfortable heading out this year and is being mindful of the high cases.

“Coming here I know it’s clean, I know it’s safe. They’ve got plenty of space,” Wesorick said. “We all hear about those things, numbers going up, and hospitals being at capacity, over capacity, it’s always in the back of your head, about who’s out here, who’s vaccinated, who’s not vaccinated.”

Chad Tuttle, the senior vice president of hospital operations with Spectrum Health, is reminding the community to be aware over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It’s the time that people like to gather, spending time with family and loved ones. We just encourage people to be mindful. COVID is real. COVID is here, the flu is here,” Tuttle said.

If you do celebrate with friends or family over Thanksgiving, already having a booster shot will help reduce the risk, but other precautions can make an impact as well.  

“We know the things that work to help stave it off: handwashing, mask wearing, social distancing. We know the vaccines work, the vaccines are highly effective. We would additionally encourage people before you gather, before you choose to go out and mingle with others, spend holidays together take a moment, assess your symptoms,” Tuttle said.