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Restaurants prepare to reopen

Adam Bruce, a waiter at the Dewdrop Family Restaurant in Gladstone, cleans tables at the restaurant Tuesday. Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses in the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula will be able to re-open starting Friday. (Photo by Jordan Beck, Escanaba Daily Press)

ESCANABA — Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses in the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula will be able to reopen starting Friday. Local restaurant and bar owners shared information on how they plan to resume business while keeping their customers and employees safe.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced these changes on Monday. Bars and restaurants in the regions of Michigan affected by the changes will still be required to adhere to some restrictions. Capacity will be limited to 50 percent, groups of people must stay six feet apart and servers will be required to wear face coverings.

Delta County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vickie Micheau said the chamber agrees that businesses in the area are ready to begin re-opening.

“The organizations of the Commerce Center have been closely monitoring the total COVID cases, recoveries, currently active cases and hospitalizations and felt confident that the region was ready to start to reengage and move to the next reopening phase,” she said.

Still, she said it will be important for businesses in the U.P. and the northern Lower Peninsula to follow best practices for health and safety.

“Our businesses have faced overwhelming economic challenges and don’t want to go through another shutdown. They will be committed to protecting their customers, employees and business,” Micheau said.

In Escanaba, the Stonehouse is not planning to re-open until Wednesday, May 27. However, local residents have already been expressing their interest in eating there.

“We’ve had so many phone calls. People are dying to get back out,” co-owner John Romps said.

When it reopens, the restaurant’s menu will be unchanged.

Romps said safety measures at the Stonehouse will begin before customers enter the building.

“We’re going to have a person at the door regulating how many people walk in and walk out,” he said.

Inside the restaurant, people will be kept six feet apart to the extent possible. Hand sanitizer will be available at all tables, as well.

In the interest of social distancing, seating at the Stonehouse will also be reduced. Romps said he is optimistic takeout orders could potentially help offset any loss of business this leads to.

“We’re hoping our takeouts support us,” he said.

Romps said he is looking forward to reopening the Stonehouse next week.

“We’re super-excited. We’ve been waiting. It’ll be nice to see our regular customers again,” he said.

At the Dewdrop Family Restaurant in Gladstone, owner Amanda Phillips said she plans to reopen Friday.

“We’re only allowing customers at every other table,” she said.

Additionally, some outdoor seating has been added. Five tables will be available on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, and these tables are located six feet apart from each other.

Phillips said a number of precautions will be taken when the Dewdrop reopens.

“Our employees will be screened (and) wearing proper PPE,” she said.

Gloves and hand sanitizer will be available to customers and staff members, and surfaces in the restaurant — such as door handles and point of sale systems — will be cleaned every 30-45 minutes. When it re-opens, the Dewdrop will have a full menu and will follow its regular summer hours. It will continue to offer curbside service and takeout orders, as well.

Phillips described being able to provide service to dine-in customers again as “a little bit of normalcy coming back.”

“We are very excited to re-open back to the public,” she said.

Escanaba bar and eatery Cat-man-do’s plans to start serving the public again at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

“I thought it was long overdue,” co-owner Curt Spaulding said of Whitmer’s decision to allow restaurants and bars in the region to re-open.

Despite this, the bar is taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

“I don’t want to downplay the safety of our employees, our patrons or the community,” Spaulding said.

Cat-man-do’s is making a number of changes to protect the health and safety of the people working and drinking there. Customers will be screened at the door, personal protective equipment will be available, and cleaning/sanitization efforts will be increased.

Along with this, Spaulding said some adjustments will be made to the bar space itself.

“The layout of the bar is going to have to be changed,” he said.

Tables will be moved further apart than normal and some bar stools will be removed to promote social distancing.

With these changes in place, Spaulding said he and other Cat-man-do’s employees are anticipating their return to business.

“We’re looking forward to seeing our regular customers back,” he said.

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