Bars & restaurants prepare for safe, limited Opening Day celebrations

Posted at 5:14 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 05:28:15-04

(WXYZ) — Businesses and restaurants near Comerica Park are preparing for a different, safe and distanced Opening Day. The annual event usually draws tens of thousands to downtown Detroit, but on Thursday, only 8,200 fans will be allowed inside the stadium.

Now, businesses are tasked with maintaining social distance and crowd control, while also trying to make up losses from months being closed. Bars and restaurants remain at a 50% cap.

The decision for many bars to be open for Opening Day was harder for some than others, given the capacity limit and the massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the state. There are also the economic ripple effects baseball games bring with it, like downtown parking.

“It has been a brutal year," Elwood Bar & Grill GM Elizabeth Markle said.

Elwood sits right across from Comerica Park on Adams St., and on a normal Opening Day, they would normally have 600 cases of beer. On Thursday, they are staying closed.

Originally, they were preparing for a small, outdoor-only celebration.

Nemo's Bar in Corktown will be open, but GM Patrick Osman is preparing for a different and scaled-down Opening Day, but he's excited.

“Everyone on this whole block, we’re all in the same boat. We’re kind of questioning what’s going to go on," he said.

Nemo's shuttles to Comerica Park will still be running, but it's limited and will be shared with other area bars.

The day is symbolic of, hopefully, economic light ahead, but the CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership said the ramp up with professional sports will be a slow one.

“We normally would have hundreds of thousands of fans participating throughout the city. Whether it’s in the parks or in various bars and restaurants. And we will probably have maybe at the most, 25 percent of that," Eric Larson said.

Tigers fans from Canada won't be allowed to cross the border this year, and Larson said hotel rooms likely won't fill up as they have in previous years.

The last normal Tigers Opening Day was back in April 2019. That day, the city collected more than $10,000 in parking meter revenue downtown alone. In 2020, city parking revenue downtown was down nearly 52%

“And it’s not just the city’s revenue on parking. I mean many of the private parking lots rely on that revenue as well," Larson added.

Osman is asking his regulars and any customers to be patient and work with him and his staff.

“It’s Opening Day but it’s going to be different, it’s going to be good but it’s going to be different," he said.