Michigan restaurants prepare to open at 25%

Coronavirus

One Well Brewing in Kalamazoo prepares to reopen for indoor dining after being closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jan. 25, 2021)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan restaurants will be allowed to open indoor seating on Feb. 1 if they follow rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One Well Brewing is preparing to reopen for dine-in service, according to owner Chris O’Neill.

“The idea of being open, even at 25%, still gives us a good feeling about being able to continue to operate the business,” O’Neill said.

Since WOOD TV8 first spoke with One Well in the spring, the restaurant has improved its outdoor seating and increased take-out operations.

O’Neill says applying for federal assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program was crucial.

“At the beginning, I was not expecting things to last as long as they have and now looking back on it, without PPP, we probably will be in a situation with a lot of, a lot closer to the end as a lot of businesses are right now,” O’Neill said.

The owner says business is still down about 60% to 70% in sales compared with 2019. One Well applied for a second round of federal PPP assistance last week.

John Schmitt is a senior business consultant for the Michigan Small Business Development Center office in Kalamazoo. As an expert in the restaurant industry, he has advised decision makers in Lansing.

“For the first time in months, we’re now back to reopening. I take this as, overall, a positive message,” Schmitt said.

He hopes restaurants will be able to operate at a higher capacity by the end of February, which might bring back some that have shut their doors in hibernation.

One Well Brewing in Kalamazoo prepares to reopen for indoor dining after being closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jan. 25, 2021)

“I think 50% is the benchmark where restaurants that have been closed will probably wait until they reopen,” Schmitt said.

He says restaurants are coming up with ways to increase the table turnover rate to make the most of 25%.

“I’ve got a couple clients that they’ll take a reservation, you order before you come in to the restaurant online, you order the food and then you come in get you’re cup of coffee or if it’s a dinner place, have a glass of wine and in five or 10 minutes your food is there,” Schmitt said.

Despite the challenges ahead, One Well is staying optimistic, hoping the vaccination rollout will improve and prevent another indoor dining closure.

“I’d like to think we’re on the downside and hope that that’s the positive direction that we keep going,” O’Neill said.

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