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Local businesses evaluate changes to mask, capacity regulations

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With the state of Michigan electing to loosen capacity restrictions and mask mandates, local restaurants are forced to evaluate their next step. Dining rooms have been given increased capacity and fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks. 

For Los Palomino’s, a restaurant in Mount Pleasant, increased capacity means a lot. After months of making many customers wait outside due to limited room, the day of a full dining room is on the horizon. 

“It’s just really hard when you have to have people waiting outside to get in,” part-owner Miriam Palomino said. “We do lose business that way.” 

Palomino said her restaurant has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic economically in multiple ways. Not only have sales gone down, but so has the number of workers.

Getting back to full capacity could have a positive impact on these struggles. 

“It would be very important to have full capacity that way we could reinstate our sales and what-not,” Palomino said. “But I don’t think that would happen just because there’s not a lot of people looking for jobs out there. We literally are short-staffed.”

Other restaurants, such as Mount Pleasant’s Pisanello’s Pizza, have benefitted from their delivery service. 

“You know, overall we might be down a little bit,” general manager Lonnie James DeRosia said. “But we’ve actually done pretty well in comparison to some places. Some places have had it pretty rough during the pandemic. We’ve been fortunate enough, being a pizza place, that things have been pretty busy and steady for us.” 

DeRosia said, while delivery has picked up some slack, overall sales are done due to a lack of dining room sales, especially during the lunch hours. 

Neither Pisanello’s nor Los Palomino’s plans to force customers to wear masks. Both said it would be difficult to enforce with rules regarding personal health.

Pisanello’s dining room is currently at half-capacity. Getting to full capacity, DeRosia said, is beneficial not just economically but also socially. 

“Seeing businesses full or just busy is a welcoming sign,” DeRosia said. “It’s what we need to get back to.”