Life as we know it is changing by the minute, including where we dine, workout and recreate.

Restaurants, bars, coffee houses, movie theaters, performance venues, gyms and fitness centers, indoor sports facilities, spas, and casinos in Michigan were closed to public gatherings as of 3 p.m. Monday, under an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Many area restaurant owners and employees were scrambling Monday, and not just eggs.

“We're having a staff meeting at 3 as we close,” Bill Peak, owner of the Rendezvous restaurant in Grand Haven, said earlier Monday. “I think our plan is going to be to offer carryout and do breakfast and lunch. Obviously, we're not going to stay open 24 hours.”

Restaurants can't have more than five people inside for pick-up at one time, and those people have to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from each other.

“We'll control it so we can comply,” Peak said.

According to the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, there are more than 16,000 eating and drinking establishments in the state, which together employ 450,000 people. Many of them will lose their jobs, at least temporarily, including many locally.

Rendezvous' 40 employees will be whittled to 15-20, Peak said.

“Some of our employees may have to file for temporary unemployment until the virus passes,” Peak said. “I don't care if I make any money in this. We want to make sure we can maintain as many employees as we can and get them through a hard time.”

The customer count at the Rendezvous dropped 30-40 percent in the past week as the virus concerns spread, but the dining room was full Monday afternoon.

“Everybody must think this is the last supper,” Peak said.

Waitress Pam Dunham volunteered to be laid off so that some of her co-workers could remain employed. She's single and has saved 2-3 months of expenses in an emergency fund.

“I can afford to take a couple of months off,” Dunham said. “There are a lot of girls here, it's tight for them. They've got kids. My kids are grown.

"We've never been through anything like this," she added. "It's crazy. It's scary. Everyone is paranoid.”

Stacey Arnold, owner of Rustic Roots in downtown Grand Haven, said as a new business owner, she's terrified.

“When I found out (about Monday's mandated 3 p.m. closing), I panicked,” she said. “We opened at the end of July (2019). We have three kids. It's not like we had a summer to get us through a slow period. We're hoping we don't end up going out of business because of this.”

Arnold said she and co-owner Jake Nash have no work for their five employees at this time. Arnold and Nash plan to remain open for take-out and offer free delivery throughout the Tri-Cities area.

“If orders pick up more with delivery, we'll happily have our employees come back,” Arnold said. “Unfortunately, this is hurting them because they depend on us for money. That makes me feel even worse. It's tough. Everyone still has the same bills even though everything is shutting down and everyone has to stay home. The bills are still there and everything still has to be paid. I don't understand how they expect that to happen.”

Arnold said they're planning weekly specials as well as their full menu.

“We're just trying to keep healthy food an option for people for right now,” she said. “That way they don't have to turn to unhealthy options or fast food.”

Supplies have also become an issue for some restaurants. Arnold had to visit a local grocery store because their ordinary supplier ran low.

Kelly Larson, who owns several local ice cream shops and Fortino's in downtown Grand Haven, said she feels fortunate that much of her business is walk-up and drive-thru. The unknowns can still be disconcerting, she said.

“As a retailer, it's really challenging to know what to do,” Larson said. “I want to keep my customers safe and my employees safe. We are well-versed in sanitation. You tell me what we are supposed to do. There are lots of moving parts right now.”

Those "moving parts" include how much inventory to order.

“Even at Skoops, today is the day I order mix,” Larson said. “It's a milk product. Usually I buy 20 cases at a time. If tomorrow I have to close, I have to dump it down the drain, which is nothing compared to what the restaurants are facing with all that perishable food.”

Chris Weavers, owner of JW's in Grand Haven's Centertown, said her restaurant will be open for takeout only. She is contemplating delivery, but fears being overwhelmed by orders.

“We're going to keep as many people working as possible,” she said of her nearly 40 employees — 30 at the restaurant and eight at the adjacent wine shop. "I'm going to promote stocking up on wines because you can't go to a bar and get any. I'm going to maybe offer some live videos, maybe virtual wine schools. We're going to make it a positive thing, come up with some ideas and implement them.

"I'm glad they're shutting things down, though," Weavers added. "We can't let this virus get any worse.”

Spring Lake's Seven Steps Up would have closed under the “performance venue” part of the ban, but because entertainers haven't wanted to travel due to virus concerns, owners Michelle and Gary Hanks haven't been able to book acts.

“Artists don't want to go on tour — they don't want people to come out if they're sick," Michelle said. "We didn't make the decision to cancel shows. Every single one was decided by artists and their management.”

Depending on how long the ban lasts, it could torpedo the local business.

“We could be out of business, that's the bottom line,” she said. “Our employees work because we have events. If we have no events, we don't have any work. It's a nightmare, and we have no idea when this will end.”

As frustrated as she is, others are sharing the same stage, Michelle said.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "I don't even remember being this scared when 9/11 happened. Think of all the people who rely on food service tips, hair stylists, every person who owns a business here. It's chaos.”

Amy Johnson, owner of Amy's Hair Hydeaway in Spring Lake, said she called the governor's office, the village of Spring Lake and scoured the internet, unsure if she had to close her hair salon at 3 p.m. Monday. She eventually learned that hair salons can remain open at this point, but if it's a hair salon with a spa component, it must close.

Even though she can remain open at this time, the damage may be difficult to undo, especially with people relying on social distancing to help combat the viral spread.

When a more normal life resumes, Johnson anticipates the loss will remain.

“People aren't going to come in and get two haircuts,” she said. “They're only going to get one haircut. We'll never get that money back.”

Contact Marie Havenga at mhavenga@grandhaventribune.com

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