As of February 1, restaurants have been able to serve patrons on-site but must limit seating to 25% of their normal capacity. Furthermore, they must close by 10 p.m. While this presents a unique set of challenges to restaurant owners and their staff, it is a welcomed relief to a city desperate to get out of the house.
Prior to COVID-19, Leo’s Coney Island in downtown Royal Oak stayed open 24/7, 365 days a year – even Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. On February 1, the restaurant once again opened its indoor dining room to the public. While delivery drivers continued lining up (six feet apart) to receive their orders, several families with young children could be seen enjoying their first saganaki (Opa!) in months. The restaurant hopes that plexiglass barriers installed between booths encourage patrons to return to the Main Street institution.
Just down the street, Ronin Sushi continues adapting to serve its customers amidst new regulations. At the start of the pandemic, the restaurant installed a special, curbside window to accommodate the increased demand for carry-out orders. Now that indoor dining is back on the table, Royal Oak’s hottest date-spot is once again thinking on its feet. “Normally our upstairs is reserved for private events,” one employee said. “Now, it’s part of the restaurant.”
While most restaurants can put up with Governor Whitmer’s curfew, local bars face a challenge packing in sales before the clock strikes ten. Ferndale staple, New Way Bar is grateful to its regulars who showed up on day one of the reopening to support the local watering hole. “We did great yesterday,” owner Jamie said. “It was so great to see everybody.” While New Way has made a name for itself as a packed, music-filled, late-night hub, they can’t accept more than 24 customers at any given time – a tough break for a local joint that prides itself on filling the cups of the masses.
Regardless of limitations the community is thankful for the opportunity to eat/drink in public spaces. As we return to our favorite destinations it is important to consider those who serve us – many of whom have been out of work since the shutdown – and are now putting their own health on the line to make a living and provide us with the experiences we so desperately crave. Tipping is more important than ever and means everything to employees who have struggled to make ends meet throughout the course of the pandemic. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is the importance of taking care of our neighbors. For the last three months we’ve done that by avoiding bars and restaurants all together. Now that we are once again able to enjoy these spaces, we must do our part to support the institutions that provide value and beauty to our lives.