As metro Detroit’s indoor dining resumes, some owners are cautious, others eager to reopen
Mike Baldwin, Head Chef at Testa Barra in Macomb Township, is excited to reopen. Part of the Baldwin Restaurant Group with three facilities, the restaurant can seat 65 people under current restrictions. In normal operation, Testa Barra has a capacity of 250 seats.
“Just having people in the restaurant is going to be great,” said Baldwin. “All of our staff are a lot happier. It’s been really difficult to be in this industry. Just being able to do what we love and share it with the community again is going to be great.”
Joe Vicari, owner of Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, plans to reopen all of its 20+ restaurants, but only for dinner.
Vicari had defiantly pushed against the November order, but later withdrew and allowed one of his facilities to suspend its alcohol license for violating the hiatus. The owner of gourmet restaurants, including Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood, is excited about the reopening of restaurants for personal dining, but would like the state to provide restaurateurs with a plan for the further course of the process.
“If COVID cases don’t increase by February 21, then can we increase capacity to 50 percent? Can we then increase to 75 percent 30 days after that? That’s exactly what we’ve been looking for,” Vicari said. “They say they follow up cases, hospitalizations, etc. Things are bad. Why didn’t we go 50 percent? There’s no rhyme or reason.”
Vicari wasn’t sure if all of his 700 employees who were on his payroll before the pandemic will be back to work, and believes some may have found employment elsewhere. His management team worked on staffing last week.
Goldberg said the past year has been challenging for Stage Deli. While it has always offered a carryout service, there has been a marked increase in online orders. Revenues are down, but better than expected, Goldberg said.
Stage Deli kept all 45 employees on the payroll throughout the pandemic, with the exception of those who didn’t want to keep working, Goldberg said. Around 75 percent of employees were currently employed before the pandemic. The other 25 percent did not come back for various reasons, Goldberg said.
“We’re surviving. Some of our employees didn’t feel safe. Some had family problems, others decided to get out of business altogether,” he said. “Others are waiting to see if it’s all over.”
Goldberg would like to open its doors to customers again.
“Obviously, when we see things get better we will revisit the reopening,” he said. “We like to have this community energy here. But we did well. When (the pandemic) started we thought the sky was going to fall. It turns out people are still enjoying good food. That’s one of the few simple joys we have I made it through all of this. “