Rain pitter-pattered down Michigan Avenue on Monday afternoon as Dearborn business owners got ready for a long drought of customers following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order for the closure of all bars and restaurants in order to contain the novel Coronavirus outbreak.
Noah Saleh, the owner of Noah’s Smokehouse, said he was thinking about how unfortunate the timing of the virus was for his new restaurant in West Dearborn’s downtown.
“We’re hoping it goes by quicker than we think,” said Saleh. “You know, it’s very tough for everybody. For the workers, luckily, the state is offering unemployment for up to two thirds of their wages.”
However, Noah’s won’t be keeping the doors open for delivery through DoorDash or GrubHub, “Our business is a little different – we have to smoke meats all through the night, and it’s kind of a numbers game for what we should cook for the next day. It’s kinda risky, so I have to close my doors and wait until things are good again and open up.”
Gov. Whitmer issued executive order 2020-9, which orders all restaurants and bars closed to dine-in traffic between 3 pm today and continuing to March 30th at 11:59 pm. The order applies to cigar bars, hookah bars as well as vape lounges, but restaurants are allowed to serve food to-go and through delivery services.
State officials are encouraging Michiganders to take part in carry out and delivery services to support struggling businesses. In an official statement, Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, said “It’s important Michigan take the necessary steps to protect public health, but we also realize the importance of supporting local retail, eateries and stores. You can still get your favorite foods, just in a different way than before, as we work together to reduce the spread. I urge you to continue to support your area businesses, who are often the foundation of our local communities, by buying gift certificates for later use, getting take-out or delivery.”
Other local businesses like Shatila bakery had a steady stream of customers. Emma Soufane, a local resident, stopped by Shatila today to purchase some baked goods, quickly entering and exiting the business. The normally busy social hub, Shatila’s tables were empty, but customers were coming back and forth with orders. Shatila is currently offering free delivery to all customers in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights during the pandemic outbreak.
“One way residents can also support local businesses is to buy gift cards to give them cash inflow, and you can enjoy yourself after this passes,” said Jackie Lovejoy, president of the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses [needing help to cope with Coronavirus] can utilize their chamber connections… [the chamber’s] coronavirus page has business tips, SBA (Small Business Administration) links, Comcast information and insurance recommendations.”
Workers laid off during the COVID-19 outbreak are receiving extended unemployment benefits, thanks to another executive order, order 2020-10 put forward by Gov. Whitmer today. The extended unemployment benefits make it easier for workers laid off due to Coronavirus closures, or who have to take unpaid time off of work due to illness, and the unemployment benefit has been extended from 20 to 26 weeks in length, with the normal in-person application and work search requirements now being waived. According to the press release from the governor’s office, “eligible employees should apply for unemployment benefits online at Michigan.gov/UIA or 1-866-500-0017. A fact sheet on how to apply for benefits can be found here. “
Governor Whitmer said she is currently exploring further options and having discussions with the Small Business Administration on how to offer more support for small businesses being impacted by novel Coronavirus.
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