Local businesses struggle to survive shutdown

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been more than a month now since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed her executive order to temporarily shut down all bars and dine-in restaurants.

However, many have had to close completely because they did not have enough money to stay open. Although it’s a temporary restaurant shut down, owners say the impact is long-term.

“It was really, really tough because I have never, maybe two people in the history of my company have ever had to lay off, and here we laid off or put on furlough 700 people,” said Jeff Lobdell, the president of Restaurant Partners Management, LLC.

Lobdell owns 15 restaurants in Grand Rapids and five in Traverse City. Eighteen of them had to close completely due to COVID-19 financial struggles. The only two that currently remain open are Beltline Bar and Bagel Beanery.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Lobdell. “We didn’t know if this was going to be for two weeks, three weeks or four months. We still don’t know, so it’s kind of scary.”

Lobdell says they are using this down time to prepare for when they can reopen.

“We’re also trying to help each other with getting resources to our employees, showing them where they can get unemployment benefits. Most of them have never even filed for unemployment before,” said Lobdell.

Lobdell says the company has been setting up every Tuesday morning to pass out meals to the workers now without a job. They’ve made roughly 1,500.

As for when the economy reopens, he wants people to not be afraid to go out and support local businesses.

“We’re going to do as much as we can to take our already great standards and make them even better, so the guests feel safer than they ever have before,” said Lobdell.

The current stay-at-home order in Michigan expires on May 15, but it’s unclear if that will be extended, or when restaurants will open back up once again.