Toledo restaurants see business boom from Michiganders crossing the border

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 06:52:47-04

TOLEDO, OH (WXYZ) — Michigan's neighbors to the south -- both Ohio and Indiana -- are further along in the re-opening process, and attracting business from Michiganders.

Monday, Gov. Whitmer lifted Michigan's stay-at-home order, and announced bars and restaurants could re-open with limited capacity June 8 under phase four of the "MI Safe Start" plan.

In Toldeo, restaurants saw a a boom in Michigan patrons in recent weeks. Ohio welcomed back patio diners May 15 and indoor seating in its restaurants on May 21.

Managing partner at PizzaPapolis in Toledo, David Keen, said roughly 40 percent of his customers in the first week or so reported they were from Michigan.

The restaurant chain has several metro Detroit locations also, which Keen said likely helped their business with Michiganders in Ohio during the re-open.

"We’ve had quite a few people come down from Michigan. An hour, two hours, we had someone who drove four hours just to come here," he said. "I think they’re a little cooped up there with not being open yet.”

There are new safety measures in place in Ohio's recently re-opened eateries. At PizzaPapolis, there are partitions blocking off table areas. Servers must wear face coverings, and there are limits on groups of diners greater than 10.

"The whole six feet social distancing, putting markers on the floor so everybody knows. Putting sanitizer out for the guests that come in," Keen explained, as he walked us through the restaurant's additions.

While employees are required to wear face coverings, PizzaPapolis allows guests to decide whether or not to wear one.

Keen said masks for patrons are encouraged, but not required. He said most patrons choose not to wear one.

“Ohio and Indiana have turned into the enticing new black market of restaurant dining. We are seeing more anecdotal evidence that at this point that people are flooding into Toledo," said President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, Justin Winslow. “Indiana actually has billboards up, welcoming Michiganders into their 'open state' and people are flocking.”

Winslow said this measured "rush to the border" is not necessarily bad news for restaurants in Michigan, as it's proof people want to return to dining out -- and will once it's allowed here too.

Keen said while he's confident his business in Toledo will bounce back, there's thing that will continue to keep business down -- sports are still not in play.

"Right now it’s supposed to be our hockey and baseball season. And obviously those weekend nights are huge and you have a wait," Keen said.

Since their Toledo location re-opened, Keen said they haven't had a line out the door yet.

Gov. Whitmer spoke about Michiganders crossing the border during her press conference on Monday.

"If you're one of those people that's going to Ohio I hope, I pray that you're doing your part not to bring COVID-19 home," she said, holding up a face mask.

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