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Mount Pleasant restaurants reopen indoor dining services


Marine City senior James Lowery sits inside Dog Central's dining room on Feb. 1, 2021. This was the first day since since mid-November that restaurants owners could have customers eat in their dining rooms. Lowery said he felt safe going out and was excited to eat in restaurants again.

Mount Pleasant's restaurant operators spent Feb. 1 seating and serving customers for the first time since last year.

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) on Nov. 18. The order was implemented to combat the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Even with indoor dining allowed, there are still many restrictions. According to the MDHHS, restaurants and bars will have to operate at 25 percent capacity, tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Closing time must be before 10 p.m. and contact information must be collected from diners for contact tracing.

For many restaurant workers, this means apprehensive excitement.

At Pisanellos, indoor dining also means the reopening of its well-known pizza buffet. Manager Kevin Lentz said he's prepared for lines out the door and possibly turning people away if they don't wear masks.

“We've been looking at our social media and with the number of people that have been talking about coming back in, our limited capacity that should fill up the inside tonight," Lentz said.

Pisanello’s isn’t the only restaurant expecting business to pick up with the increased number of customers. Paul McFall, the owner of Dog Central, said the indoor reopening was fairly busy for a Monday, but still heavy with to-go and call-in orders.

Some businesses, like Dog Central, are taking extra care to not violate the executive order. Picnic tables with heating lamps are set up outside and information for contact tracing can be left digitally or on paper.

“If we have more than 14 people in here, we have to start kicking people out,” Kyle Townsend a Dog Central employee said. “Everybody’s kinda used to it. If we say we’re at 25 percent capacity they really don’t get mad at us since it's either we tell you to get out or our business gets shut down." 

At Stan's Restaurant, breakfast is always busy. Manager Tammy Germain said she intend to follow restrictions and prioritize her customers. 

“I’ve taken out a couple of tables to create a bit of space, and as far as the booths go, we’re going to try and (seat people every other table)," Germain said. "But if the customer’s here and they want to eat, we’re going to let them sit."

For many local restaurants, offering dine-in services is a promising step toward the lifting of further restrictions.

“We’re just hoping that we can get some later curfews (further) in the semester and hopefully serve a few late nights," McFall said. "We're looking forward to having some people in the restaurant again."