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Michigan restaurants welcome back dine-in customers

25 percent capacity, other restrictions in place
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Posted at 10:58 AM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 23:16:52-05

(WXYZ) — After dine-in service was closed for months due to COVID-19, Michigan bars and restaurants are finally able to welcome back customers.

Today is definitely a big step in the right direction for Michigan restaurants, but 25% occupancy is not a viable long-term strategy. We are focused on working with the new MI Department of Health and Human Services Director to create a more comprehensive plan that includes the prioritized vaccination of the industry to restore jobs and public confidence in dining and traveling once again.
Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) President & CEO Justin Winslow

It's a day Georgios Asimakopoulos said couldn't come soon enough. He owns Gus & Us Grill with his wife Maria in Allen Park.

“It’s been a really weird year," he told 7 Action News while waiting for the breakfast crowd Monday morning.

Like many restaurant owners in Michigan, Asimakopoulos said the flip flopping of closing then re-opening only to close again has been stressful, both emotionally and financially.

Maria said it's their loyal regulars who have kept them going.

“They’ve supported us twice a day," she said. “Probably 75 percent of our customers are regular customers.”

Monday's re-opening to dine-in service comes with plenty of caveats, including:

-Restaurants can only have 25% seating capacity with a limit of 100 people inside
-Businesses have to close by 10 p.m.
-Tables must be 6 feet apart
-No more than 6 people allowed per table
-Contact information will be taken for contact tracing purposes

Gus & Us Grill is still relying on take out services like Grub Hub and Door Dash, but Maria said they're hoping their new extended hours will draw a larger breakfast and lunch crowd for dine-in service. Gus & Us is now open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Sunday, when they're open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It’s a big difference eating inside and eating with your friends and picking it up, taking it home," said Walt Bezerko, longtime customer at Tim's Coney Island in Allen Park.

He's been getting breakfast at Tim's for nearly 30 years, and was one of the first people in the door Monday for his go-to oatmeal.

“The service is great, the food is great, just everything about it. It’s like a family restaurant," he said.

A survey by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association found 40 percent of restaurants in the state won't re-open for dine-in under the current restriction of just 25 percent capacity.

“Something is better than nothing," said Tim's Coney Island's owner, Tim Zhuli.

Zhuli, who said he's grateful to have his staff and customers back for dine-in service, said it's going to take time to recoup his losses.

“It’s going to take a year at least.. or more," he said.

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