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MRLA: “Good, if overdue” on Feb. 1 restricted lift on indoor dining

U.P. restaurant and bars owners deem it a start for an industry in dire need of a rebound
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 8:10 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Promising news for the U.P. food services industry following Gov. Whitmer’s announcement Friday to resume indoor dining under the latest COVID safety restrictions.

Restaurant and bar owners called it a step in the right direction for the industry’s rebounding process -- even leaving Jerzi’s 41 Bar and Grill Owner Jamie Clark all smiles.

“We knew it was going to come eventually. And I’m happy we weren’t let down by another extension. This is something that we’re all looking forward to,” said Clark.

Aubree’s Pizzeria and Grill Owner Bryan French acknowledged the restricted lift, adding that the goal remains to increase capacity -- as the restrictions under the new order allow for no more than 25% inside each food establishment.

“Restaurants operate on a razor-thin margin. For us, 25% doesn’t really pay the bills, really doesn’t equate to a profit. Actually, we’ll be losing money at 25%. So the goal for us is to keep moving forward and increasing our seating,” French explained.

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) CEO Justin Winslow issued a follow-up response to the announcement via press release, stating the Governor’s to decision ‘to reopen restaurant dining as good, if overdue news.”

But he also expressed for the administration to push their efforts towards a “phased reopening to 100% capacity of indoor dining.”

Capacity limitations led to Angie Foley shutting down operations for nearly a month at her establishment, Rousseau Bar, near Mass City in Ontonagon County.

Rousseau Bar had just opened up in the week for takeout services.

“On Saturday’s, that’s my big money day. And so if we can’t have more than 25% capacity. It means I’m turning people away, which means I’m turning money away. Which means this is my time to save, because when spring comes we’re going to be very very slow.”

Above all, owners believe the path to industry recovery is moving in the right direction -- but as capacity limits continue, creativity and takeout options are a must.

“One of the biggest benefits for business are the ones that have takeout windows. I mean the people that I know that do have them have been doing a fantastic job and actually with a few of them their sales are up,” said French.

“We’ve got our system in play and we’ll just pick up where we left off,” Clark said.

The Feb. 1 epidemic order is set to last until Feb. 21.

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