image-5 image-5

Without Spartan football in the fall, an estimated $80 million will be missing from East Lansing businesses like Crunchy’s.

EAST LANSING, MI — In Michigan, even daunting issues like the novel coronavirus and its devastating impact on the economy comes down to college football.  Nowhere is that more true than in one of the hubs of college athletics in the state: Michigan State University. 

“I’ve been a lifelong Spartan. My dad, aunt and uncle all graduated from MSU and I’ve been here in EL ever since I graduated in ‘01,” said Mike Krueger, owner of Crunchy’s in East Lansing, a restaurant largely serving students. “Anybody who graduated in the last 30 tears, and pretty much everybody in the area, knows Crunchy’s as an East Lansing staple.”

Krueger has owned Crunchy’s since 2015, and is the third owner of the burger and beer joint he’s worked at for nearly a decade. But 2020 has been a very different year.

RELATED: WATCH: 4 Tips from a Michigan Restauranteur on Dining Out in a Pandemic

A nearby bar also serving students, Harper’s, became the site of a massive superspreader event, causing a surge in novel coronavirus cases in Ingham County and across the state, straining a restart process for area restaurants and bars over the summer. Now, headed into fall, a new problem presents itself for Krueger. 

“Home football games are really our biggest days of the year in terms of revenue and they really help carry us through the rest of the school year,” Krueger said. “With college football postponed, we’re bracing ourselves for even more financial fallout.”

Football generates around $80 million for East Lansing businesses, reports MSU. Losing it means Crunchy’s, and countless other neighborhood businesses, will face a dramatic blow in the coming fall. 

That fallout has been felt across the economy and across the country. From a devastating quarter for Ford to small businesses struggling to survive the economic collapse created by the coronavirus, the impact of the virus on the economy has been crippling. 

Krueger on accountability 

Krueger sees a clear tie to the lack of the fall football, which helps keep his business’ lights on, and Donald Trump’s presidency. He believes with more support, the virus could be more under control and businesses could be staying afloat. 

“It didn’t have to be this bad,” he said. “Big Gretch and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist have shown incredible leadership throughout this pandemic even though it feels like Trump forced them to go at it alone. Rather than be a partner to our state leaders, Trump and his team seemed to create roadblock after roadblock.”

READ MORE: How Gov. Whitmer Is Giving Millions To Michigan’s Struggling Restaurant Owners

Krueger said Trump ignored the damage the pandemic would do to neighborhood businesses when he refused to take the virus seriously, but believes Biden would have handled the economic collapse and the disease that caused it more responsibly. 

“To get back on track I think we need to trust that our leaders at the top have our best interests in mind,” Krueger said. “I really think that Joe and Kamala can get this virus under control and help build our economy back right here in Michigan and all over the county.”

Krueger pointed to programs like emergency loans through the Paycheck Protection Program as being hard to obtain and onerous on business owners, contributing to a large portion of struggling businesses not being able to access the program’s funding. 

Trump has also been reticent to continue direct stimulus programs like the enhancements to unemployment that expired in July, and whose stopgap replacement expires at the end of September. 

“COVID, [Trump] didn’t cause. But, my God, the way it’s been responded to,” Biden said in a recent video conversation with his running mate. “I just don’t get how there’s not a more significant understanding of the incredible pain that is occurring in America and the economic chaos caused from that.”

Krueger agrees. 

The alternative Krueger is looking for

Instead of the current lackluster response to the economic crisis created by the coronavirus, Krueger supports Biden and Harris’ proposal, which the candidates argue places more faith in the American worker, rather than Trump and Republicans. 

“I believe they don’t believe in the intelligence and the ethics of the American people,” Harris said of the administration and lawmakers in the same conversation. “People like to work. They want to work. They want to earn their living. And for them to suggest that the American people instead want to game the system is an insult to the intelligence and the integrity of the American people.”

SEE ALSO: After MAC Surrenders to the Pandemic, Will Other Leagues Follow?

By contrast, Biden and Harris propose extending the full $600 per week enhancement to out-of-work Americans and putting together a “comeback package” for neighborhood businesses like Crunchy’s. Their plan also includes funding to state and local governments the Trump Administration has resisted. 

As for Crunchy’s, Krueger is determined to make it through the pandemic despite their business shrinking by about 70%, he said. 

“Obviously COVID-19 has been difficult for us to weather,” Krueger said. “But we’re holding on ‘cause we have to. We don’t want to let our Spartan community down.”