GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A popular Eastown restaurant says had to close early Sunday when unruly customers made rude remarks.
Basalt, a modern Tex-Mex restaurant, opened in April of 2021. Its owner, Steven Martinez, said opening during the height of the pandemic taught him and his staff to be flexible and adaptable. But nothing could have prepared them for what they saw Sunday afternoon.
“Not only did we have that sudden (brunch) rush, but we had a lot of larger parties all at the same time,” Martinez said. “Tons of takeout and some of the rudest people in town came in.”
The restaurateur said it was like death by a thousand papercuts. With rude remarks, unruly customers, some picking up the wrong orders and others rearranging furniture without permission, Martinez knew his staff couldn’t take it any longer.
“When folks won’t make eye contact, they won’t acknowledge that we’ve said hello to them, it makes it really difficult to establish (a good) relationship,” he said.
The shop closed around 2 p.m., though its hours of operations were supposed to be until 4 p.m. It also was closed Monday, Martinez said, to give waitstaff a break following in uptick in disrespectful customers.
“It’s unfortunate. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t realize that although food prices have gone up and labor has been difficult to find, the people who are still there are working as hard as they can,” said Richard App with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
Martinez’s experience isn’t new. Last month, East Park Tavern in Charlevoix closed for similar reasons during the town’s popular Venetian Festival.
“There has been a general frustration in the retail community for quite some time about people just not being as kind as they need to be and blowing small things out of proportion,” App said.
Downtown businesses with social zones have reported loitering and people who are not patrons abusing the space. App said those zones were created as an extension of the restaurants. They are considered private property and managers should feel comfortable removing unwanted guests in the future.
“At the end of the day if we want to have good restaurants we have to treat them with the respect that they deserve,” he said.
Uptown GR, Inc., the nonprofit that supports neighborhood businesses including Basalt, released the following statement in response to Basalt’s closure:
“Supporting our district’s businesses is UGRI’s primary objective. That will always include supporting our business owners in any decision they may find necessary to make, in order to create and foster healthy and safe environments not just for their guests to enjoy, but for their employees to work in.”
Basalt will resume regular operating hours Tuesday.