September 29, 2023


The Number One Source For Business

Businesses react as Michigan’s restrictions extended – Business – Monroe News – Monroe, Michigan

“None of us know what to do,” said Don Bozynski, owner of Larson’s Bar in Monroe. “We’re all just kind of waiting to see when we can reopen.”

Don Bozynski, owner of Larson’s Bar in Monroe, is used to seeing his establishment’s walk-in fridge brimming with the fresh ingredients and supplies needed to make what he calls a simple menu.

But these days his fridge is empty — and he’s hesitant to restock it. Wary of further restrictions mandated by the state, he said many restaurant owners are stuck in limbo, waiting to see when they’ll be able to return to some semblance of normal operations.

“None of us know what to do,” he said. “We’re all just kind of waiting to see when we can reopen.”

According to Michigan health officials, that wait will continue.

On Monday afternoon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an emergency order set to expire today will remain in effect for another twelve days.

The order, which was issued in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, took effect Nov. 18 and now remains though Dec. 20.

It requires restaurants to restrict operations to carryout and delivery service or outdoor dining.

The order also shuttered several entertainment venues, such as theaters and bowling centers, restricted group physical fitness classes and mandated the closure of several schools within the state, requiring remote learning for higher education institutions and high schools.

Citing pressure on the state’s healthcare system and concern about the rapid spread of the disease, Whitmer said the extension is necessary.

“It’s not anyone’s fault — this is how COVID-19 spreads,” Whitmer said. “It’s just that simple — it’s the science of the virus. That’s why we have to limit indoor gatherings.”

A decrease in test positivity and hospital strain likely will remain key factors in determining how the order will be shaped in the future, she added.

“We won’t lift all of our protocols at once — we’ll do it in a measured way so we don’t erase our progress,” Whitmer said.

“We are on the brink of incredible breakthroughs. … We are closer than ever to the day where we begin distributing a safe, effective vaccine.”

The uncertainty of how long restrictions will persist leaves business owners and their employees anxious, said Bozynski.

When restaurants, which have been restricted to carry-out or delivery service, are able to reopen, Bozynski said his business still will have been closed for a significant part of the year, taking a heavy financial toll.

Restaurants faced similar restrictions this year in the earlier days of the ongoing pandemic, though they were able to reopen at limited capacity in the summer.

“It’s been brutal — there isn’t really another way to describe it,” he said. “This year and these closures — they’ve just been brutal.”

The prospect of another elongated closure is especially daunting during the holiday season, he added.

People tend to go out more around the holidays, Bozynski said, adding that restaurants already anticipated the loss of revenue typically generated through holiday parties and business events.

Unable to reopen now, Bozynski says he spends his days looking around his empty bar, wondering when he’ll be able to host customers once again.

“I’m used to getting up every day and going to work,” he said. “This whole experience has just been hard.

“My employees work hard all year. Now around the holidays, they don’t even have the option to work. … It’s going to hit a lot of employees’ families hard this year.”

First established by his grandfather and then operated by his mother, Bozynski, a lifelong Monroe resident, took over the bar 23 years ago after graduating from Siena Heights University, Adrian.

He said he learned a hard lesson from the first closure.

In preparation of St. Patrick’s Day in March — one of the busiest and most profitable days of year for restaurants and bars — he had prepared 300 pounds of corn beef and stocked up on ingredients.

But days before the event, Whitmer issued an order closing eateries’ dining rooms as the state launched its response to the ongoing pandemic.

“Now I’m standing here trying to figure out how — and when— I’m going to fill (my restaurant) with product,” Bozynski said. “People think we can snap our fingers and fill the place with product when we need it. That’s not how it works.”

Larson’s Bar, located at 713 Stone St., isn’t operating a carryout or delivery service because it’s just not profitable, Bozynski said, adding that restaurants aren’t receiving the same support they got during the first shutdown.

“It’s hard to compete when people (in Monroe County) can just cross the (state) line where everything is open,” he said.

Jeth Ott, owner of The Little Brown Jug in Maybee, said the most recent closure is reminiscent of the last one, in the sense that Ohio restaurants were able to reopen three weeks before those in Michigan.

“It is impossible for our Styrofoam to compete with dine-in restaurants 10 to 15 minutes away with hot food and cold drinks,” Ott said. The closure “will only continue to be devastating to Monroe County restaurants.”

Ott said his restaurant is averaging 35{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} of its usual sales during the last three weeks, compared to a year ago.

During the first closure, his business was able to make 60{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} of its usual performance, which Ott said was a strong showing given the circumstances.

He suspects closures and restrictions will persist through the spring.

“This creates massive ripple effects throughout the community,” Ott said. This shutdown “is very different than the first shutdown for many reasons, and we will continue to lose businesses here in our community.”

Earlier Monday, an organization representing the 133 community hospitals in the state urged Whitmer and her administration to extend the temporary restrictions, saying they have helped to lessen COVID-19 rates.

“To see meaningful change that truly alleviates stress on the healthcare system, we urge the state to extend protections through the holiday season,” said the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

“We still don’t know what impact Thanksgiving will have, but we do know that with the recent pause, we’re seeing some slight improvements. As a state, we must not let our guard down and reverse this progress.”

Last week, an official representing ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital said the local health center had neared capacity several times due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.

Locally, COVID-19 rates have seen a stark increase in recent weeks, compared to the early days of the pandemic.

There have been 5,540 reported cases within the county as of Monday, according to the Monroe County Health Department.

Last week, Kim Comerzan, director of the local health department, said using precautions like the implementation of mitigation strategies, hand washing, wearing a mask and social distancing were paramount in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

“We encourage everyone to take their health and safety of themselves and loved ones very seriously and act accordingly,” she said in a previous statement to The Monroe News.