Northern Michigan begins to reopen

May 22, 2020

Some businesses in northern Michigan re-opened Friday with restrictions under an executive order from the Governor.

While many welcomed the news… some businesses are playing it safe.

Just before midnight Thursday… a group of 30 or so people stood in line outside Brady’s Bar near downtown Traverse City.

Trevor Richmond is one of them. He drove in from Kalkaska to get some drinks with friends.

“Kinda been missing hanging out, just wanna get out and about ya know, I’m tired of hanging at m y house.”
 

Brady’s is one of the only bars in Traverse City that reopened literally as soon as they could.

Just before midnight… the crowd even got a countdown going.

“COUNTDOWN.”

Richmond and the rest of the crowd filter into the bar. Some are wearing masks… or covering their mouth with their shirt.

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When they get in… there are big blue X’s on the floor to help space everybody out. Bartenders and waiters wearing masks and gloves start taking orders. They use hand sanitizer between every purchase.

When she found out she could reopen… Brady’s Bar owner Nolen Sleder was nervous… but excited.

“Because we’re the locals bar, they miss us, we miss them. We want to see them. We’re being very careful, but they’ve been waiting a long time and we’ve been waiting a long time.”

People started flocking downtown the next morning. By 10 a-m Friday sidewalks were full of people strolling down Front Street and heading into stores and restaurants.

Mary Olmstead drove up from Custer near Ludington… which is still closed. She came for a doctor’s appointment… but decided to stick around to see what the reopening looks like.

She says she’s wearing a mask and keeping her distance but...

“I just… would like a little normal back.”

Stores and restaurants across Traverse City have their doors open. Most have signs out front requiring customers to wear masks and socially distance.

Amanda Danielson runs Trattoria Stella… an Italian restaurant. She says her phone started ringing off the hook for dinner reservations… before the Governor finished announcing the reopening.

“Easily 75-80 percent of the calls we got were 810, 248, 313, 734, 312”

Danielson quickly told some of those out-of-towners to back off. She limited reservations to locals or people she knows and trusts. Now they’re booked solid through Sunday.

She sent every customer detailed instructions on the protocol for Stella’s reopening. Diners have to wear masks until they sit down… show up in 15 minute increments… and verbally acknowledge they’ll follow the rules.

Danielson said that scared some people off.

“Nevertheless it’s necessary given the behavior we’re seeing all over town.”

For the time being… Stella will have about 16 customers in the restaurant at a time. That’s well below their normal capacity of 175.

But some restaurants are staying closed. Meridith Falconer is a co-owner of Alliance, another restaurant downtown.

They’re sticking with takeout only for now. Falconer says her staff isn’t comfortable seating customers in their small dining room.

And she says… they want to wait and see how other businesses reopen. That may help them avoid some pitfalls… and lawsuits.

“God forbid something happened or somebody got sick, the fallout from that feels pretty heavy to think about.”

Falconer says takeout is working for them… so they’re in no rush to fully reopen.

Wendy Hirschenberger with the Grand Traverse County Health Department was surprised at the timing of the reopening. But she says the county has seen some good health signs recently. COVID cases have flattened… and at one point two weeks passed without a new one.

As of Thursday… Grand Traverse County had 23 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Hirschenberger says they’re still telling anyone driving up north to self-isolate… but admits they can’t make anyone do that.

And everyone will need to readjust permanently.

“I don’t think we have to have the mindset of going back to what we had previously, I think we need to realize that we are in the new normal.”