Local restaurants, bars worry about future after state order

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WOOD) — Restaurants and bars across Michigan are closed after an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday morning.

This comes as local, state and federal government agencies work to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order went into effect at 3 p.m. and has since left many business owners with questions about how to move forward. 

“How am I going to pay anybody? How are they going to pay their bills? How am I going to pay my bills?” said Larry Zeiser, part owner of neighborhood bar Logan’s Alley on Michigan Street. 

Zeiser says his business already had plans to close on Street Patrick’s Day and reopen Wednesday in an effort to promote social distancing. He says now they’re being forced to come up with a new plan as their business will likely lose thousands of dollars during the shutdown. 

“Now the big step is our federal government: How they’re going to help employees?” Zeiser asked. “We can handle paying them for a little bit, but it’s going to be hard with an indefinite period.”

Local restaurant employees say news of the closures has them concerned too. 

“It’s just more of a feeling that life is uncertain now because I don’t have any money coming in,” said Ericka Chandler who works at Electric Cheetah.

Chandler says due to the capacity limits put on restaurants by Kent County over the weekend, she was already expecting to lose some money. She says with the complete closure, she has no idea what will happen next. 

“It’s like, where can you make cuts? Can I call as far as my car loan? Can I skip a payment? Where can I make cuts as far as expenses? What can we do without?” said Chandler as she recalled the thoughts she had upon learning of the closure. 

The owners of Electric Cheetah say it’s been a worry of several employees over the last few days.

“There’s a level of panic that we’ve been watching happen all week,” owner Cory DeMint said. “We are one of the industries that have been hit the hardest, so there’s going to be lots of unknowns.”

DeMint says they’ve seen impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak since the beginning. He noted a 50% decrease in sales in January and February. He says in addition to that, he and business partners recently opened a second Electric Cheetah location. He says the shutdown will come with some serious hardship.

“Now being required to completely shut down, obviously it’s for the good of the community, but at the same time being completely unsure of how long this requirement on dine-in services (will last), we don’t know how we’re going to sustain ourselves. We don’t know who to call,” DeMint added.

He says while there are options for his business if it goes under, there are not many for his employees. 

“People should be letting us know that everything is going to be OK, and all we’re hearing about is the CEOs of the nation’s largest companies standing up there getting fist bumps and it’s annoying,” DeMint said. 

Whitmer says the shutdown will be in effect until March 30 but could be extended past that date. 

“The best-case scenario is everybody gets through this and we learn our lesson, and I think in the long run, we don’t forget,” said Zeiser.

The restaurant owners say they’re hoping for the best and doing what they can in the meantime. They say there may be some sort of federal or state relief necessary soon. They say they’re hoping for more answers from the top. 

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