Told to stop dine-in, restaurants look at other options

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Restaurants in Grand Rapids are preparing for winter amid new epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that are limiting business.

On Sunday evening, the state announced restaurants are required to do away with dine-in service for the next three weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Restaurants will have to rely on carryout, delivery and outdoor dining.

“If cases are spiking and this is what needs to be done, we’re OK with that. Like I said, we’re lucky enough, we’re fortunate where we do so much carryout. We do a lot of business with GrubHub, Uber Eats and Door Dash. They keep us pretty busy,” said Zaid Kaskorkis, who owns Parsley Mediterranean Grill in downtown Grand Rapids.

Inside Parsley Mediterranean Grille on Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids. (Nov. 16, 2020)

Though outdoor seating is available to several restaurants already, Kaskorkis predicts getting people to eat in the cold will pose a challenge.

“You can put up a tent and you can put a heater but in Michigan, it gets super cold. I can’t see people’s food staying warm or them being able to sit under a heater in this kind of weather,” Kaskorkis said.

He said he believes his business will be able to survive on carryout orders. He doesn’t plan to cut staff during the three weeks of restrictions.

Down Monroe Center, recently opened restaurant House of Wine spent Monday afternoon winterizing its outdoor seating so customers can sit comfortably in the elements.

“We had a great August but as you know by the end of August, some nights get pretty cool outside and so (business) tailed off in September and October was horrible, one of our worst months ever, and right now we’re dying on the vine,” owner Jim Lynch said.

The enclosed personal dining areas come complete with heating. Only one party is allowed to sit inside of the enclosure at once. It is sanitized with wipes and a spray after each use. 

“I think we’ll be able to do enough business with this street seating here plus the retail, plus the takeout, to stay open,” Lynch said.

Across from Rosa Parks Circle, Uccello’s Pizzeria, which says it has never winterized seating, is considering similar measures.

“We are hopeful that we can convert our outdoor dining spaces, but first and foremost, our priority will continue to be the safety of our Team and Guests. In addition to safety, we want to be sure that our outdoor dining space will offer a comfortable, warm, and hospitable environment,” Uccello’s spokesperson Kelsey Neuberger said.

Restaurant owners say they’re hoping these three weeks don’t turn into three months. 

“I hope that if we follow these guidelines and rules and restrictions that we can open our cities and states back up sooner rather than later,” Kaskorkis said.

Business owners say if the shutdown goes past the three-week mark, some sort of government funding will be critical. If there is no relief, they predict mass closures.  

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