Restaurants, bars, stores begin reopening Friday in northern Michigan, UP

Doors will reopen at northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula restaurants, bars, offices and stores Friday, the first region of the state allowed to get back to business after the pandemic shutdown. 

Kat Gray, general manager at CW’s Restaurant in Alpena, said they’ve called back 15 waitstaff and plan to open at noon Friday. They are anticipating good crowds after seeing social media posts Thursday of traffic headed north on Interstate 75. They even booked a DJ.

“The word is out downstate that we are open,” said Gray said. “We’ve had a ton of calls.

“We are a little nervous because we are rusty but we are excited and relieved.”

Alpena is located in one of 17 northern Michigan counties that — along with the entire Upper Peninsula — will see reduced restrictions on Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order reopens retail businesses and offices as well as bars and restaurants operating at half capacity. Businesses also must train employees on health and safety protocols, keep groups six feet from one another and require workers to wear face coverings.

Gray said they plan on offering a limited menu and keeping customers on the bar side of the business, called Sneakers. It’s located in the Ramada by Wyndham Alpena Hotel & Conference Center.

Gray said they tried to open previously with just carry-out but there wasn’t enough demand. 

Eric Peterson, owner of Alpena’s The Fresh Palate, said they will reopen for lunch and dinner Friday, urging customers to make a reservation so they can plan better. Twenty of his staffers are coming back and ready to work, he said. 

“To have made it through the fire and be back open feels excellent,” said Peterson.

Business leaders have criticized Whitmer for not opening up certain areas of the state earlier.  

Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said earlier this week that the phased reopening is “long overdue” and “should have happened weeks ago.”

Staff Writers Candice Williams and Keith Lang contributed 

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