State rep. and restaurateur sees shutdown impact firsthand

Coronavirus

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Deemed essential during the governor’s stay-at-home order aimed at combating coronavirus, restaurants will still be allow to serve takeout and drive-thru meals. But for many restaurants, that’s only a small part of the revenue.

Tommy Brann, the owner of Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille in Wyoming, who also happens to be a state representative, wonders how many restaurants will survive.

“July 5th will be my 49th year here on Division in Wyoming,” Brann said Monday, standing in his empty restaurant wearing the apron of a table busser.

State Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, of Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille on Division Ave. (March 23, 2020)

His dad John Brann started the business in 1941 in downtown Grand Rapids and he worked there his whole life. He still buses the tables and flips the sizzlers at 4157 South Division Ave. SW.

The longest his dining room was ever shut down was three days in the blizzard of 1978.

Normally, the lunch and business rush would have his bar and dining room bustling. Instead, the front door is bolted shut and the chairs are stacked on the tables.

“There definitely would be people in here supporting us and tipping our servers and enjoying themselves,” Brann said, lamenting that shutdowns have killed 95% of his business though he’s still offering takeout and delivery. “We’re not like a Culver’s or McDonald’s — our takeouts are about 5% to 10% of our revenue.”

He normally has 44 people working. Now, he has three taking care of cleaning and cooking for takeout. All of his restaurants normally employ more than 400.

Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille in Wyoming is among the restaurants being negatively impacted by widespread coronavirus shutdowns. (March 23, 2020)

“I’m pleased the governor sees us as essential business. I think the restaurant business has always been underrated. We are essential,” Brann said.

>>Who is an essential worker amid stay-at-home order?

Brann said he agrees with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to close a wide range of businesses — the goal being to limit contact between people and slow the spread of the coronavirus so hospitals can keep a handle on serious cases — but he says the government, the banks and utilities have to step in to help small businesses. As things are now, he said, some are not going to make it.

“One person I talked to is a constituent and he has a restaurant, and he said that the banks said, ‘Don’t worry we won’t charge you principal, just interest.’ Well the interest is $3,000 a month. He’s not open, he has no business,” Brann said.

He said the Portage Brann’s, 700 M L King Dr., will have to close down. It was already struggling and the pandemic was the final straw, Brann said.

While he worries about the impact COVID-19 will have on the industry and on the country, he plans to persevere.

“Some restaurants won’t be able to weather it but Brann’s, we’re going to make sure we weather it. I wouldn’t let my dad down,” Brann said.

Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille in Wyoming is among the restaurants being negatively impacted by widespread coronavirus shutdowns. (March 23, 2020)

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