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Reopening small businesses in Detroit post-COVID-19 may be 'difficult'

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Posted at 3:15 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 18:44:26-04

(WXYZ) — Business in the city of Detroit will need to rebound from the coronavirus crisis, and the Detroit Regional Chamber asked one of its lifelong city members to give some insights.

Dennis Archer Jr. said Downtown Detroit may shrink with even fewer workers, and reopening with be difficult, especially for restaurants and bars.

He's the son of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, owns an ad agency and Central Kitchen and Bar.

Archer said they tried to stay open during the takeout but it didn't work. Dan Gilbert's Bedrock is giving him rent relief, and he's not carrying a lot of debt.

"We're in a fortunate position too, really we've got no income and limited expense," he said on Tuesday.

Archer said so many Downtown Detroit workers are in the same boat as the nation – they've had to learn to do their jobs remotely. But that may not be good for downtown in the rebound.

"I don’t suspect that 100% of those people are coming back downtown to work," he said.

The appointment of Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to head a task force on racial disparities is a good start, Archer said. He also said the systematic problems facing the city and residents had been discussed before – during the 2008 recession and Detroit's bankruptcy.

The coronavirus is not the problem, but could be the catalyst for change.

"Lack of economic opportunity, lack of a path to entrepreneurship, unequal access to capital, inequitable distribution of education, inequitable distribution of financial resources," he said.

As talk of reopening the economy continues, Archer cautions about businesses moving too fast.

"To rush into opening, to rush into 'opening back up the economy' only to have to shutter it again in a couple of months is not success," he said.

Archer said that for a certain period of time, people may have to be served with a mask and gloves on.

He said his employees are going to have to feel comfortable coming back to work.

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