Grosse Pointe restaurant owner speaks out in support of Michigan’s restrictions on indoor dining

Michigan bars, restaurants prohibited from offering indoor dining amid coronavirus surge

Local restaurant owner speaks out in support of Michigan's restrictions on indoor dining

GROSSE POINTE WOODS, Mich. – While some Metro Detroit restaurant owners are encouraging businesses to open their dining rooms in defiance of Michigan’s latest COVID order, others are supporting the statewide closures meant to slow virus spread.

New coronavirus restrictions went into effect in Michigan on Nov. 17 that prohibit restaurants and bars from offering indoor dining services through Dec. 8, among other restrictions. The owner of Andiamo, Joe Vicari, wrote a letter calling on Michigan restaurants to defy Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health department and reopen if the new orders are extended past Dec. 8.

Read: Andiamo owners urge Michigan restaurants to defy shutdown order, reopen if ‘3-week pause’ extends

However, some restaurants don’t agree with Vicari and his call to reopen amid the surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state.

Vanessa Gonzalez, owner of Grosse Pointe Woods restaurant Garrido’s Bistro, says she’d rather stay closed than risk spreading the virus by reopening too soon.

Gonzalez says as soon as she saw the letter from Vicari, she felt compelled to respond as a restaurant owner.

“It doesn’t represent my voice,” Gonzalez said of the letter. “I know other small restaurants are not represented by that sentiment, by that way of thinking. I felt that we needed to put our perspective out there as well.”

Related: Michigan doctors urge restaurants to keep customers safe from COVID-19 by avoiding rush to reopen

The Grosse Pointe Woods restaurant owner took to Facebook to show her support for the state’s coronavirus restrictions, even if they do negatively impact her business.

“We are in favor of the closing order, even if it puts us out of business,” Gonzalez wrote.

She says that the health and safety of her staff are her number one priority.

“They face the same high risk as hospital staff -- the difference is that hospital staff knows that they are working with (COVID) patients, but our staff doesn’t,” Gonzalez said.

“I have a server, she’s a single mom with two kids. What do I say to their kids if something happened to her because of this? What do I say to the wife of my dishwasher?” Gonzalez added.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates that 2,000 restaurants have closed for good due to the pandemic, and as many as 6,000 could close by the spring if help doesn’t come soon.

Gonzalez agrees, but says there is a much bigger picture to be aware of.

“I have a responsibility, I guess,” Gonzalez said. “I think we all do.”

To make matters worse, many service workers are having trouble receiving unemployment benefits during the restaurant closures. Many of them have already used up their weeks of state unemployment in the earlier months of the pandemic, when restaurants first closed.

More: Michigan restaurant owners call for compromise in Lansing amid struggle to stay afloat

Gov. Whitmer is requesting to permanently extend unemployment in the state, but there’s no word on whether or not lawmakers plan to do anything with it. Officials have not yet indicated whether or not the state’s coronavirus restrictions will be extended beyond Dec. 8.

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About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.