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GRAND RAPIDS — Restaurants and breweries across West Michigan are taking precautions to protect employees and patrons from coronavirus.
Many West Michigan establishments have taken to social media to post about the extra cleaning and sanitation steps they are taking as 10 additional cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus, were found yesterday and four were confirmed today, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, bringing the total to 16. Four of these cases are in West Michigan.
James Berg, managing partner at Grand Rapids-based Essence Restaurant Group, which owns Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well and Grove, said the businesses have just begun to feel the effects of the virus in the number of customers coming to restaurants.
“It’s been really starting early this week, and now with all the (school) closings, we’re seeing today at lunch there’s nobody,” Berg said. “Any place where people gather, it’s going to be massively impactful in a negative way.”
Berg expects for the next 60 days, the issue will get worse before it gets better.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual for many West Michigan establishments, although they are taking extra precautions. Many restaurants have put out hand sanitizer for guest use, and implemented more frequent cleaning and sanitizing schedules.
“In addition to our normal cleaning and sanitizing practices, we will be using sanitizing wipes to disinfect tables and chairs at the beginning of every shift, before and after guests are seated at the bar or tables, and at the end of every shift,” Long Road Distillers posted on its Facebook page.
This is similar to precautions other bars, restaurants and breweries have taken, as most are implementing guidance from the Kent County Health Department. They are also removing some seating in order to provide a buffer between guests, and requiring sick employees to stay home, and encouraging sick guests to do the same.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is using its downtown ambassadors to disinfect surfaces frequently touched by the public, including door handles and railings.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order today that cancels events with more than 250 people and all large gatherings in shared spaces with more than 250 people until April 5.
As a result, Founders Brewing Co. announced it would close its Detroit and Grand Rapids taprooms until that day. Other establishments, like Cedar Springs Brewing Co., have canceled upcoming events. Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand posted Friday that it would close until further notice because of its small staff size.
Some businesses also have responded to Whitmer’s announcement that K-12 schools would be closed. Grand Rapids-based The Mitten Brewing Co. on Friday handed out free slices of pizza to students, parents and teachers. In Saugatuck, The Southerner said it would provide free picnic lunches to students via a cooler on its patio.
For its part, Essence Restaurant Group has also put more resources into to-go ordering and carry-out meals. Next week, it will launch curbside pickup and online/app ordering, Berg said. The restaurant group has not adjusted hours or made other chances, but could do so in the future.
“We’re going to have to do business differently,” Berg said. “As we get new information, we will change and adapt the way we need to.”
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