Desperate for help – restaurant owners appeal to governor
Jan. 20, 2021 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Nearly 100 desperate restaurant owners state wide have signed an open letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer begging for help. Written by Lansing’s Saddleback BBQ co-owners Matthew Gillett and Travis Stoliker, the letter reportedly has received almost 100,000 views on their Facebook page since Tuesday.
Frustrated after the latest state ordered shutdown “pause” and the MDHHS regulations that restricts business to carryout-only service, the owners and operators are pleading for help. The so-called pause of inside dining has lasted over 75-days after being twice pushed back to a now tentative opening date of Feb. 1.
“We do this to survive, but also because we take our responsibility in the community very seriously… Although we have grit, we are running out. We need to open,” the owners implored the governor.
“This is not about right or left, this is about the livelihoods of everyone in the restaurant industry and the decision to extend the ban on dine-in service until Feb. 1.”
The open letter invites proprietors to sign-on with the conditions they “must be respectful” toward Whitmer “even if you have disagreements.” Prior to the pandemic carryout orders accounted for just 30 percent of Saddlebacks business.
Bridge Michigan reported state health officials are watching three key coronavirus elements for reopening after the mid-November dining room closures: the percentage of people in a region testing positive for COVID, overall case rates, and hospitalization rates. The news magazine said there were 1,738 new state coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day average down to 2,072, a new low since Oct. 25.
According to the Michigan Lodging and Restaurant Association an estimated 2,000 restaurant and bar establishment have already closed and others are near the end of the line.
“We have to open February 1,” said Scott Ellis, president and CEO of the MLRA, “We have no choice. We have to open.”
Dear Governor Whitmer,
Thank you for your service to our state and for helping us during this terribly difficult time. We’ve stayed quiet on all things political, and don’t intend this to be political. This is not about right or left, this is about the livelihoods of everyone in the restaurant industry and the decision to extend the ban on dine-in service until Feb. 1.
As you are well aware, there are more than 100,000 unemployed hospitality workers and many restaurant owners on the brink of bankruptcy. At your recent news conference, when referring to the bans on indoor dining you said, “They’ve never been closed, they have take-out opportunities and they have outdoor dining,” While this is correct, many of us in the industry felt that this didn’t show enough empathy or understanding for our businesses. Most of our businesses simply cannot survive on take-out alone. The loss of sales has put thousands of small restaurant operators in Michigan on the verge of bankruptcy.
We completely understand your concern for safety. But we have met all three of the “Key Metrics for Safe Restart” established by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average of new cases, hospitalizations and percent positivity are all within the metrics for a safe restart established by MDHHS.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. We know that there were some restaurants that didn’t follow the rules when we were allowed to be opened. Let us be clear: They were irresponsible and wrong. On the other hand, I can assure you that we took the safety restrictions extremely seriously and we were diligent about enforcing them. We made sure social distancing was enforced, we demanded all customers wear masks, we have kept health screening data on every single employee every day for the entire pandemic, we added barriers, we increased sanitization protocols, and much more. We can assure you that we were keeping our employees and customers safe. Please don’t punish us all because of the ignorant actions of the few bad operators.
During this pandemic, our staff has been on the front lines serving the community while putting themselves at risk. We feed the hospital workers, the children with no lunch programs, the churchgoers, and the less fortunate. We innovate to promote safe practices to get our product to our customers with online ordering, curbside, takeout, and delivery. We do this to survive, but also because we take our responsibility in the community very seriously.
Although we have grit, we are running out. We need to open. Restaurants are the backbone of a community, employing over 15 million people nationally, and feeding our communities. Thirty-three percent of restaurants in Michigan say that they will not be able to stay in business, according to the MRLA.
Please, let us open safely as soon as possible. Thank you very much for your consideration and for all you have done for our state!