DETROIT (WXYZ) — For the first time in a long time, a Friday night in downtown Detroit actually feels like one.
“Were just happy to be here," said Sandi Daniels while out enjoying dinner and drinks at Olin Bar and Kitchen. "Happy to be out.”
Olin is operating at 50% capacity for the first time in months, opening their doors to new customers.
"It’s just fun," said diner Rachel Klingelhofer. "Getting to chat with girlfriends, trying new drinks, trying new appetizers, be out in the city again. Feeling like there's life again.”
The restaurant had its grand opening in September in the midst of a pandemic. They've never operated at 100%. They’ve been open as much as they’ve been closed.
“It's been hard on all the staff and all our employees, but we’re just trying to stay positive and get through it,” said owner Holly McClain. "Everybody is excited, everybody came into work excited today. Excited to see more customers.”
Next door at Queen’s Bar, they’re also operating at 50%. The roped-off tables and masked bartenders are the only real reminders of a pandemic.
"We’re busier than we’ve been in a while,” said bartender Jeff Peak. "We have as many seats as we have and that puts us right at 50%.”
The staff can also feel safer. The City of Detroit expanded vaccinations to food service workers and many took advantage.
“A lot of us have got vaccinated and everyone was excited to head out and do that," McClain said.
What was once a normal Friday night is now cause for celebration. These restaurants may be half empty, but to customers and staff, they’re half full.
“It won't be taken for granted again,” Klingelhofer said.