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Bars and restaurants prepare for a COVID-19 Valentines Day


Nick Berenyi (left) and Jen Poliski eat inside the Bird Bar and Grill Feb. 1, 2021. This was the first day since mid-November that restaurants owners could have customers eat in their dining rooms. Poliski said she was a little worried about eating out but the plastics barriers between booths made her feel better.

Love isn’t all that’s in the air this Valentine’s Day. 

Many national holidays this past year have had to adapt to the pandemic, and Feb, 14 won't be any different. While Valentine's Day usually holds the promise of bringing people closer, social distancing and other restrictions may make date night difficult.

Sunday also marks two weeks since restaurants reopened for indoor dining. Before Feb. 1, restaurants were restricted to carry-out, delivery and outdoor dining due to an executive order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The order was implemented to combat the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Restaurants that would typically be preparing for a busy weekend are now ensuring they are taking the necessary safety precautions.

Mountain Town Station Restaurant & Brew Pub is one popular date night attraction. Manager Jared Keifer said he feels there's been enough time to prepare for the possible rush.

“It’s just about managing our space and what we can do realistically with our minimal staff,” Keifer said. “Luckily, being open for a week, we’ve got a good test of our highest point is at where we can seat everyone.” 

While local bars like The Bird, The Cabin and O'Kelly's may not have the same dinner-date crowd, they still have to cope with the potential change that COVID-19 brings. 

“(In years past), we didn’t see a whole lot of dinner dates. More than anything, we’d see a lot of after-dinner activities,” Ben Breidenstein, manager at The Bird said. “Maybe, they went to a movie and then they’d come here to have a drink, play pool, maybe darts and the jukebox things like that.” 

With current restrictions, businesses are only allowed to seat people at 25 percent of their normal capacity. These limitations have made some bars change what their typical strategy would be. 10

“Obviously, this year we have limited capacity, so we’ll probably do more reservations, which we didn’t do before,” said Marty’s Bar Manager Lacey Coulson. "This is just one of many examples of changes that local businesses are making in order to adapt."

While local bars and restaurants are still expected to have increased business on the weekend, there is debate on whether it will be mostly in-person or to-go. 

“I think people are for the most part pretty much over the staying home factor,” Breidenstein said. “I think people are just antsy and ready to go out and do activities.” 

Eateries like Mountain Town Station, however, predict there may still be apprehension to eat out. As of Feb. 11, there are 572,179 trackable coronavirus cases and 15,052 confirmed deaths in Michigan.

“People I think are going to celebrate at home, maybe do some take-out stuff too," Kiefer said.

Despite this Valentine's Day looking different this year, many restaurants and bars are still looking forward to having couples back in the dining room.

“Just being able to have people in here is all we can really ask for,” said Kiefer. “Just as much support as we can get and everyone’s been super understanding through this time and pretty patient with us so we're pretty lucky to have that kind of crew coming in here”