CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As restaurants across the state prepare to close up shop for the next 3 weeks, the staff at Dan’s Diner are preparing to hang up their aprons for good.
“2020 and the pandemic were just too much for us,” Dan’s Diner posted on its Facebook page Tuesday.
“I’m just really sad about it. I mean, they really worked hard to try to keep this place going through the previous shutdown,” regular customer Patrick Webster said.
Dan Chudik, the man behind the diner, has been cooking in the area for 30 years but took over the 28th Street diner only a couple of years ago.
“When you look around at how many people are here and how many are calling in for the to-go orders, it kind of shows how much Dan touched the community,” said Abby Bannar, who started working at the diner a few weeks ago.
Chudik said while new state restrictions going into effect Wednesday allow for carryout and outdoor dining, it’s not realistic for his business to survive any longer without dine-in service.
“This thing has crushed a lot of people, crushed a lot of friends of mine in business,” Chudik said. “I’m just choosing not to go through another whole shutdown and everything. I can’t make it at 50%, so I really can’t make it when it’s just takeout.”
The diner joins a list a nearly 2,000 restaurants that the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association says have closed as a result of the pandemic. The MRLA is now suing the state for injunctive relief.
“We view this as the last available option to this association and to this industry,” MRLA President Justin Winslow said.
Winslow says if the state doesn’t allow restaurants to continue operating with limited capacities over the next few weeks, there will be mass layoffs and thousands of restaurants joining Dan’s Diner in going out of business.
“We know that carryout and delivery might save some, some might actually do pretty well, but for a lot of others, it will be the end of their business,” he added.
While it’s a bit late for Chudik, the MRLA hopes it will be able to stop the bleeding for others.
“We’ve got to move on. People have to be smart and start taking this thing seriously,” Chudik said.
Dan’s Diner started as Pal’s Diner in 1954. The restaurant’s third owners moved the entire diner car from Mahwah, New Jersey to Cascade Township in 1993, reopening the restaurant in 1996, according to the website for Dan’s Diner. Chudik adopted and renamed the restaurant after the third owners retired in 2017.
The nostalgic pink 1950s décor of Dan’s made it a Michigan hot spot and attracted some fame, appearing in a Meatloaf music video and the 2012 movie, “Touchback.” The walls of the diner’s waiting area are covered in memorabilia and autographs from “celebrity admirers,” the diner’s website states.
Chudik said what he’ll miss most is the people. His customers and employees say they’re hoping he continues to cook in the area.
“I’m pretty sad about it. I’ve enjoyed working here and I also come in a lot with my family, just as a customer, so I’m sad we can’t do that anymore,” former employee Ava Dixon said.