Local eateries were making their final preparations to close their dining rooms Tuesday as the latest restrictions by the state to stop the spread of COVID-19 were slated to take effect just after midnight Wednesday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the moves Sunday via orders from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services that put a halt in-person dining. Other restrictions included remote learning for high schools and colleges, the postponement of high school athletics, closing movie theaters, bowling alleys and casinos and forebidding gyms from hosting group exercises, according to the Associated Press.
The AP reported Tuesday that the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association sued in federal court to halt the restrictions.
But local restaurants were preparing to make their moves. Michelle and Dustin Draper opened The Ville restaurant in June, and they started out as a takeout-only business. Eventually, they were able to allow diners into their restaurant while adhering to the restrictions such as having half of their capacity for dirning.
“It was good,” Michelle said about opening up for customers earlier this year. “We redid the inside and everything. It was nice for people to come in and we were able to get to know them.”
Because of The Ville’s close proximity to Mason County Central High School, it proved to be a good spot for lunch by the school’s students, she said. Not only is the closing of the dining-in affecting The Ville, but the high school is going to remote learning for the same three week period as the restaurant.
The restaurant is looking into starting up a delivery service.
“We’re open, and we will do our best with the takeout,” Draper said. “We’ll do this delivery, and hopefully it will all go (well).”
The House of Flavors in Ludington will be making several changes that won’t only be for the next three weeks, but will last into the spring. Mike Cota, general manager at the House of Flavors, said the restaurant made the decision so employees had an idea of what was ahead.
“We don’t believe it’s going to be just three weeks. Our struggle with that is we want to tell our staff what is happening. We don’t want to lead thee guys on for two or three weeks. We will let some of those people collect seasonal unemployment,” Cota said. “And we’ll keep a number of us employed. Hopefully, this will get all settled down (by the spring).”
Cota said the summer was pretty good for the House of Flavors, and the fall was busier than normal. House of Flavors will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the details on how delivery will happen are still being ironed out. And, the ice cream parlor will remain open for takeout, too.
Exactly when in the spring the House of Flavors will return to in-person dining remains to be determined, he said. The restaurant plans to keep people informed through social media and other means. While Cota said the restaurant is excited about the potential for delivery, he also said he and the staff are looking forward to when things could return to what they were before the pandemic.
“We know we will get through it, and we’re hoping that things will go back to semi-normal,” he said. “We will all get through this together.”
Ghada Maniaci, co-owner of Luciano’s in Ludington, said the restaurant never closed during the shutdown, and it will return to doing takeout and delivery. With the pandemic and a lack of employees, the restaurant did change its hours to accommodate as best it could.
“What can you say? That’s how it goes,” she said. “Hopefully, the vaccine will come out soon. (That) way, it will help us to get our business back. A lot of people are getting hurt by this situation.”