SUTTONS BAY — A team of Leelanau County contributors spent the spring collaborating for a safe reboot on their peninsula.
They’ll be tested this weekend as Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order partially reopened northern Michigan bars, restaurants and retail in time to capture holiday business.
The Leelanau Recovery Team formed in early April to provide the peninsula’s 1,200 businesses coordinated guidance for safely restarting operations under the COVID-19 threat and restrictions. Twice weekly online meetings brought forth discussions on the path to reopening as the vital economic summer season swings into gear.
But this week’s executive order took many by surprise.
With only hours’ notice before the holiday weekend, not all affected businesses are able to scale up, even for partial reopening.
“It depends on whether they all had procedures in place for mandated social distancing,” said Jamie Jewel, Executive Director for Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. “It’s difficult to call back staff in a few short days. Vendors may not have stock. In addition, training staff will take time.”
Leland’s historic Bluebird restaurant chooses not to reopen indoor dining for the holiday weekend but will continue to offer curbside service.
“This is very short notice, opening a 300-seat restaurant with four days’ notice is very difficult when you’re already short of staff,” said owner Skip Telgard. “Staff must be quarantined and vetted. We have to be very careful. We owe it to our staff and customers.”
Telgard’s grandparents founded the Bluebird in 1927. This is only the second time in its history doors have been closed. During World War II Telgard’s grandparents located downstate for two years where his grandfather worked at a shipyard supporting the war effort.
Cherry Republic’s Glen Arbor site opened its retail store and Cherry Public House restaurant for curbside service last weekend.
It planned to add outdoor dining Friday.
“We have not had an issue getting staff or supplies,” said restaurant Assistant Manager Richard Rosendall. “We were planning — knowing there could be a shortage.”
Rosendall said the Cherry Public House is prepared to follow COVID-19 protocols.
“We’re taking every precaution and sanitizing effort,” he said. “We’re going above and beyond.”
President of Northport Omena Chamber of Commerce Campbell McLeod said many village businesses operate from small historic buildings. Owners must weigh whether the 50 percent capacity restriction makes sense for their reopening. He said a handful of local restaurants/bars will reopen or continue curbside.
“We’re going to give it a try,” he said. “I imagine business would love to see tourists who obey the rules.”
McLeod isn’t alone in his concerns regarding tourists spreading COVID-19 north which has experienced relatively few cases.
“It’s certainly in the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Jewell said. “There’s potential risk, but we also want to see our businesses survive. Hopefully, we can achieve a balance and move forward.”