Empty restaurant

Restaurant and bar owners hoped to welcome customers back inside in a few days, but those hopes have been put on hold for a couple more weeks after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended its ban on indoor dining on Wednesday.

While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stressed COVID-19 remains a deadly threat to the entire state, those who work in the service industry say they are being killed financially.

"It's time. Let's be clear. It's time for us to reopen," said Kurt Busard, chief operations officer for Downtown Restaurant Investments.

DRI owns businesses in Bay City and Midland.

Busard is encouraged by the state's goal to allow indoor dining by Feb. 1, but he thinks dine-in should start now.

"The statistics show that restaurants are not the cause of the spread of coronavirus. And also, there's a lot of people out here that are unemployed, and they need to get back to work," Busard said.

Rich Kramer owns Richie Rich's Downtown Deli in Saginaw. He's hoping for dine-in on Feb. 1.

"That would go a long way to helping us small business survive this pandemic thing," Kramer said.

Kramer said his business is getting by. Right now, he's trying to hold on.

"There's maybe light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we can take a little bit of a breath and hope for more hope I guess," Kramer said.

The state did announce group fitness classes can resume beginning Jan. 16.

"I am overly excited about us being able to have classes here," said Roland Anderson, fitness manager at old Town Gym in Bay City.

He said now more members will success sticking to their exercise routine.

"They find people they can partner with inside of the classes. They develop relationships. They develop friendships to hold them accountable and keep them going," Anderson said.

While gyms can make solid plans, restaurants want the state to give them the same opportunity.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure we're providing a safe atmosphere for our customers. And you know, we just need to be able to reopen and get them back in here," Busard said.

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