How Grand Rapids bars are bringing in business on New Year’s Eve

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Like most things in 2020, New Year’s Eve will look a lot different due to the pandemic.

Statewide restrictions closing bars and dining rooms are still in place. Many businesses remain open but have moved to takeout or outdoor operations for holiday celebrations.

“I can’t even tell you how excited we are for 2021. 2020 has been a very difficult year,” said Jeff Lobdell with Beltline Bar at 28th Street sand S. Division Avenue in Grand Rapids.

On Thursday afternoon, Beltline Bar took call after call as customers placed orders for their NYE special, which included two burritos, four tacos, chips and salsa, rice, beans and a 64 ounce alcoholic beverage to go. In all, it cost about $60.

“It usually is a slower night and right now with just curbside only, we’re only doing about 30% to 40% of our business, so who knows — maybe we can do 60% or 70% of our normal business (tonight),” Lobdell said.

In downtown Grand Rapids, social zones will remain open for New Year’s Eve. People will be permitted to drink alcoholic beverages outdoors as long as they do not congregate in large crowds.

The city says there’s no official plan for controlling potential crowds outside of normal police enforcement.

Bars in the downtown area are also adapting to COVID-19 restrictions. Z’s Bar and Restaurant is hosting a popup bar outside of its building.

“We’re just doing beer, wine and cocktails. We’ve got hot cocoa, hot coffee, heaters spread out to keep people warm. The bar will set up right here on the patio, so nobody on the inside at all,” Rob Butler with Z’s Bar and Restaurant described the setup.

Butler said he’s going into the evening with no expectations but hoping for the best.

“We’re fully confident there will be a return in business just with the things that happen in the downtown area. It’s just a matter of time. We’re just hanging in there,” Butler said.

The restaurants’ staff say they are looking forward to bringing their customers back inside once restrictions are lifted in the new year.

“A lot of our people have been suffering. They’ve been out of work for almost 50 days now so it’s important for us to get them back in their restaurants,” Lobdell said. “We’d love more than anything to get our people back to work and wish everybody a happy new year.”

Beltline Bar will be offering its holiday special Thursday and Friday. Z’s popup bar was scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. Both places are encouraging people to celebrate responsibly.

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