NEWAYGO, Mich. (WOOD) — Jimmy’s Roadhouse in Newaygo reopened dining service Wednesday afternoon despite the governor’s executive order.

Owner James Cory says Jimmy’s Roadhouse has been in his family since 1970. At one point, his family lived upstairs from the restaurant and in a camper out back. He bought the place from his dad in 1999.

Now, he said, he is now at risk of losing the business completely.

Cory said reopening is his last-ditch attempt to save his restaurant. He estimated he has lost $65,000 since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told restaurants to close dining rooms and offer only takeout in mid-March. 

While he received a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program in the second round, Cory said that money only lasts so long. He said he’s using it to pay his employees.

“We’ve held on a long time and we’re not seeing the urgency,” Cory said. “You can’t make it on takeout. Even with everyone not working, we weren’t making it. My sales were still down 65%.”

The restaurant opened at 4 p.m., with the first customers already in line 20 minutes before. Within the hour, more than a dozen parties were seated. 

“We think this is good for our economy. We want to support Jimmy. He’s got family to feed as well,” Ken Pagel said as he sat at a table next to his wife Tracy. 

The Pagels were in the restaurant celebrating their 20th anniversary. They were the first customers in.

“We are not in an enclosed environment. Everyone is practicing their safety. I think it’s a good thing. I hope others will do the same,” Pagel said.

Some customers drove from Grand Rapids to be at the opening. 

“We just wanted to feel a little sense of normalcy, socializing again and also supporting local business,” Audra Vanharen said as she sat with friends. “Anything we can do to support local small businesses, I think, is really important and worth the 40-minute drive.”

The owner has instituted some changes, working to ensure safety for patrons. Staff set up a large tent outdoors where customers will be seated. Tables are spaced 8 to 10 feet apart.

Jimmy’s Roadhouse in Newaygo decided to resume dine-in service in violation of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order, and has added an outdoor seating tent to encourage social distancing. (May 20, 2020)

Only employees, not customers, are allowed inside the building. Portable toilets and sinks are available outside.

Some of the servers wore masks. The owner said he’s not requiring customers to wear them. 

The owner said he is aware that by being open, he is breaking the law and could be shut down or fined.

“The thing I’m violating is the right to congregate. That’s the law I’m breaking. I’m not breaking any health codes, liquor codes,” Cory said.

He says he wants the governor to allow businesses to operate so families can survive the pandemic. 

“Let us go, let us make our decision for ourselves. Don’t mother us. We’re adults. We’ll take care of our old and weak and sick,” he added. 

The restaurant says it will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Earlier this week, other businesses in Newaygo told News 8 that despite rumors to the contrary, they would be staying closed in accordance with the governor’s orders.