‘Phone already ringing’: Businesses eager for full capacity

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The governor’s decision to set dates for when her administration will lift capacity limits is welcome news for small businesses like wedding venues and restaurants.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that outside limits would be lifted on June 1 and indoor capacity for events would be increased to 50%. All capacity limits, as well as the broad mask orders, will be removed July 1.

“It is encouraging. It’s exciting. We’re ready to get back to work,” Keith Grafos, a co-owner of the event space Niko’s Landing in Comstock Township, said. “My phone has already started ringing.” 

Niko’s Lansing in Comstock Township. (May 20, 2021)

The business has had to reschedule many weddings throughout the pandemic because it did not know when full capacity service could be offered. 

While Grafos appreciates that he can now better plan by having a specific date, he had hoped he would already be able to operate at a higher occupancy. 

“Being selfish in this industry, I would have liked to see it open when the season started. For us, it probably starts around March or April. I knew that was kind of early. I would have liked to see this month, May,” Grafos said. 

Craig Dotson, the owner of the Studio Grill in Kalamazoo, was also excited to hear the change but wondered why it is not being accelerated even more. 

“I personally don’t understand why we’re going to wait an extra month to do all this, but you’ve got to follow the rules,” Dotson said. 

Studio Grill in Kalamazoo. (May 20, 2021)

He credits his loyal customers and federal Paycheck Protection Program assistance for helping his business survive and retain all its employees. 

“I’ve got a lot of restaurant friends that are short-staffed. They’re changing their hours. They’re closing certain days because they can’t staff,” Dotson said. 

Brian Calley, the president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, as well as a former Republican lieutenant governor and a member of Whitmer’s Protect Michigan Commission to encourage vaccinations, says the state has lagged on reopening, but he expects more changes to COVID-19 regulations in June.  

“Things will tend to just kind of progress toward full reopening throughout the entire month,” Calley said. 

The 11 p.m. curfew will also be lifted for Michigan bars and restaurants starting June 1. 

*Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Niko’s Landing. We regret the error, which has been fixed.

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