Photos via Facebook
Photos via Facebook

Restaurants are operating under a new normal, but cooped-ed up Michiganders are eager to get social again, even if from a distance.

LANSING, MI — Michigan’s economy is starting to reopen, and local retailers in Northern Michigan are learning a new normal.

Pellston is a quiet town just south of Lark Lake. Nearby Lake Michigan attracts a good number of tourists and locals alike to Moose Jaw Junction, a bar and restaurant.

Chris Tibbits is the bar’s owner and works on site. He says customers have been happy to return to Moose Jaw, but it’s currently operating at closer to 25% capacity than the state-mandated 50%.

“We’re doing fine,” he told The ‘Gander, “but once you do six-foot spacing it’s more like 25% capacity, but it is what it is.”

He reminds patrons that state law requires them to wear masks when entering and exiting the restaurant and when walking to and from the restrooms. Even with the new norms, Michiganders are flocking back to their old hangouts.

Big reminder, if you’re coming to Moose Jaw Junction for lunch, dinner, snacks or drinks, you must have a face mask…

Posted by Moose Jaw Junction on Saturday, May 23, 2020

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Moose Jaw is fortunate to have its entire staff back at work since reopening, Tibbits said. 

Other northern Michigan dining rooms and bars are reopening to waiting customers, too. One bar chose to open at the stroke of midnight last Friday when it was officially legal to operate again.

The Kal-Ho Lounge in Kalkaska is usually slow during Memorial Day weekend, according to owner Rob Schwartz. But this weekend it picked up. 

“I’m so excited!” Kal-Ho bartender Deborah Galea told the Detroit Free Press before the bar reopened last week.

One Kal-Ho patron shared his excitement to be back out safely. 

“Drinking at home is kind of sad,” said Jacob Sivley, who works at a nearby factory. “So I’m out here tonight because I’d love to grab a beer and at the same time just get out of the shell a little bit.”

The Gay Bar in Gay, Michigan, has since reopened its doors to regulars and the curious. The UP’s Throttle Saloon Bar & Grill in Little Lake has also reopened.

Tibbits says educated restaurant patrons can expect a typical time at their tables but should remember their masks.

“We’re doing what we can to make sure everyone knows, but there should have been more education before reopening,” he says.

Western and southeastern Michigan bars and restaurants are still operating for carryout, curbside and delivery services only. When they do reopen, there will likely be similar restrictions to those throughout the state.

The economic re-engagement spurring in Michigan is part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Safe Start MI plan. It allows some area’s bars and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity.

“The data has shown in these regions of our state that we can phase more sectors into re-engagement of our economy,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a coronavirus briefing last week. “When it comes to new cases per million, percent of positive tests and deaths, these regions are far below the statewide average.”

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