Restaurant owners plead for patrons to keep virus at bay to avoid shutdown

Coronavirus

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Restaurant and bar owners are expressing concerns about the possibility of a second shutdown, even though state officials haven’t come out with any new restrictions or guidelines.  

“It’s probably the biggest thing on our minds right now,” said Justin Buiter, the co-founder of Railtown Brewing Company. “For us, it’s not really a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” 

The fears come as the state continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases, with local hospitals overwhelmed with trying to meet the needs of the growing number of patients.  

During a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that if the numbers continue on the same trajectory, her administration may have to take further action, though she was not specific about what that could be. 

Scott Ellis, the executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said he’s been in contact with the governor’s office nearly every day to discuss what it’ll take to keep another shutdown from happening.  

“I have to give the governor a lot of credit to do everything she can to keep it open, but it’s really up to the public (and) whether they wear a mask or not,” Ellis said. “We’re not going to get into this political debate about masks, we as business owners just want to keep open.” 

For Buiter, the idea of a shutdown is even more concerning the second time around, saying he’s not sure they’d be able to take care of their staff like they did before.  

“There’s no safety net this time,” Buiter said. “When we got shutdown in March, Congress came around pretty quickly and made sure that folks were at least covered for the short term. Right now, there’s no extended unemployment benefits, there’s no second round of PPE. There’s nothing for anyone, so I think that’s the thing that scares us the most.” 

In the meantime, restaurant and bar owners are pleading for people to follow the rules.  

“The intent here is to keep people safe and it keeps people like us open,” Buiter said. “It keeps our staff employed and it’s really frustrating to see people not willing to do the small things to help someone else out.” 

Ellis making this same plea.  

“Please wear the masks, please wash your hands,” Ellis said. “The other things that you do elsewhere affect our industry so when you say you’re supportive of our industry, please remember we need to keep this virus at bay so we all can stay open and still serve so these businesses don’t go under and people lose their livelihoods.”  

On Saturday, News 8 reached out to the Whitmer’s office for comment about the likelihood of more restrictions being imposed on the restaurant and bar industry.  A spokesperson shared the following response:

“There is nothing official to share from the Governor’s Office or MDHHS on this front… if anything changes, per the norm, a public announcement will be made.”

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