Restaurants and bars begin reopening

Executive order now allows dine in customers

REED CITY -- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's latest executive order allowing restaurants and bars to open at 50 percent capacity took some local business owners by surprise.

"We were a little surprised, we were expecting mid to late June, maybe even July," said Reed City Brewing Co., manager Garrett Murphy. "Our customers are excited to see it happen."

"We were lucky, because we could look at those who have already done it ahead of us and see what they are doing. That has helped us prepare a little better, knowing what is working for them," he added. "We're getting prepared, though, and we're taking it one day at a time."

Reed City Brewing opened to dine in customers on June 8, but will continue to do curbside pickup and take-out, as well, Murphy said.

Seven Slot Grill owner Christy Wallace said, after having been closed for several weeks, they were preparing to open June 8 for curbside pickup and delivery, but now with dine in allowed, the plan has changed somewhat.

"We can't do dine-in and delivery, because we don't have enough staff," Wallace said. "We will have dine-in, and we will also do curbside pickup and take-out orders. Online ordering will be available as well."

The 50 percent capacity stipulation will limit the number of customers that can be accommodated for dining in, so that social distancing requirements can be maintained.

Murphy said they are looking at possibly removing the larger tables and couches that were previously available to customers so that the smaller tables can be spaced out more.

"We have four-top tables and ten-top tables," Murphy said. "We will probably just use the four-top and spread them out to keep customers separated. When all the tables are filled, we will have to turn people away, or put them on a waiting list. We are still working all that out."

Wallace said even at 50 percent capacity, they will be able to accommodate 60 to 70 customers at a time.

"When we reach our capacity limit, customers will have to wait to be seated, and we will ask that they wait in their car," Wallace said. "We will call them or text them when a table is available. We are encouraging customers to go online and make reservations as much as possible."

The executive order stipulated that safety protocols must be in place when reopening to the public, which include face coverings, social distancing and strict sanitation procedures.

"We have protocols in place for safety," Wallace said. "We are asking customers to maintain the social distancing and we have markings on the floor to help with that. The tables are spaced out. We will ask customers to wear masks, for the safety of our staff, but we won't enforce it."

Wallace said the staff will be wearing masks and gloves and will practice social distancing as much as it is possible to do.

"There will be six on staff at a time," she said. "The wait staff is expected to maintain social distancing from the kitchen staff and with customers as much as possible. They will be advised not to stay at a table for more than 10 minutes at a time. We have cut down on the number of staff to keep them spaced apart as much as we can."

Murphy said they rarely have more than two kitchen staff and two wait staff on duty at any one time, so he didn't think it would be an issue as far as social distancing.

"We will be following the recommended protocols, such as wearing masks and gloves and social distancing as much as possible," Murphy said.

Additional protocols will include more rigorous sanitation procedures, such as regularly wiping down common and frequently touched areas, and sanitizing chairs, tables and other areas.

"Our tables and chairs will be wiped down and sanitized between customers, and every four hours we will wipe down everything that is a touch point," Murphy said. "We are also considering closing for about an hour each day, midday, to do a deep cleaning and sanitizing."

Wallace said in addition to wearing masks and gloves, they have installed a sneeze guard at the register to separate the staff from the customer.

"We will be sanitizing every four hours, wiping down frequently touches surfaces and items, and sanitizing everything between customers," she said. "We have three different entries, so we may ask that customers come in through one door and go out through another. Each door will have a sanitizing station and a 'stop the spread of germs' poster. We will do the best we can to make sure our staff, customers and the community are safe."

"It's all a little scary," she added. "We have been in business here for 13 years, and it was hard just letting it sit here. It was time to open up. It's going to continue to be hard on businesses until we can get back to being fully operational."