Portage restaurant opens in-person dining despite state ban

Coronavirus

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Daily Grind Cafe in Portage has opened in-person dining in defiance of a state health department order prohibiting the practice.

Dave Morris, the owner of the small restaurant, says he expects the state order to be extended. He says he has no other choice financially but to open in-person dining.

“When we were doing 50%, we were at least making the bills,” Morris said. “When they ripped that out in the fall time, and the weather is getting cold. (With) breakfast, you can’t survive on takeouts.”

According to Morris, the restaurant began in-person dining on Tuesday.

“At this point, I’ve got people going down to Indiana. My customers sitting at tables and dining. When they tell that to me, it hurts,” Morris said.

Morris has received support after making the decision with new customers and is turning some away for in-person dining.

“People want to kind of come out and take jabs at me on social media that if you can’t survive this for three weeks. This isn’t three weeks, folks. This has been going on for nine months. I have lost thousands and thousands of dollars in sales,” Morris said.

Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford says his department issued a cease-and-desist order on Tuesday. He said the matter is out of his hands unless the state changes the restrictions.

“At the local level, we’re the ones that receive phone calls. We’re the ones that have to knock on the doors and do these cease-and-desist orders and hopefully, there’s some level of compromise,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford says the restaurant is risking the accumulation of significant fines by not complying with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order.

Morris says he is following mask, social distancing and sanitation guidelines. He feels if the government is going to prevent indoor dining, there needs to be funding to help small restaurants financially survive the pandemic.

“I think we’ve already lost a lot on a permanent basis, and others are right on the brink,” Morris said.

Morris says they have had no cases connected to the restaurant and that he would close to quarantine if there were.

“There’s a reason for nine months we haven’t had a case tied to this. It’s a small place. We sanitize. My cook hasn’t gotten it. Nobody has gotten it through here, so why do you want to shut me down?” Morris said.

Both the MDHHS director and the governor have not said if the current order will be extended or modified once it expires on Tuesday.

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