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Some Michigan bars cleared to reopen under strict guidelines

Mid-Michigan bar owner: “We’re going to take care of each other"
Published: Oct. 10, 2020 at 11:06 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) (10/10/2020)-Some bar owners are preparing to reopen after an order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services cleared the way Friday.

“We are very excited and a little bit nervous, but we’re going to make sure we do this right.”

For good reason, given the closed sign that’s darkened the front widow of Mike Hanley’s Saginaw tavern for most of the last year.

We’ve been open 23 of the last probably 200 plus days," he said.

And yet, Hanley’s counting his blessings. His iconic State Street watering hole – Big Ugly Fish, which was once voted among the top ten best neighborhood bars in Michigan – is now only days away from reopening and the anticipation is audible.

“I understand when you guys were here before I got here today, a car drove by, rolled the window down and a woman screamed, ‘open up the Fish,’ so, people are anxious to be open,” Hanley related.

It follows a Friday order from Robert Gordon and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, enabling bars closed under a July executive order applied to establishments that took in more than 70 percent of their money from liquor sales to reopen. They’ll do so under strict safety guidelines, which, among other things, call for patrons to be seated and six feet apart.

“We respect the decision the governor made,” Hanley explained. “COVID has hit some of the businesses.”

And Hanley isn’t taking any chances, though questions remain regarding exactly how the orders will be enforced.

“We take it seriously what happened,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods. We’re going to be at 50 percent capacity and were going to have to wear a mask… we’re going to take care of each other.”

Mike had just gotten off the phone with his manager when he met this ABC12 crew in front of his still shuttered tavern, opting not to open right away in favor of moving forward with a well-considered plan of attack.

“They’re buying the fresh fruits and things like that,” Hanley said of his returning employees. “They’re putting the signage in place, making sure everything is in position so that we’re just right for the opening.”

Its famous all-day popcorn buffet will no longer be self-serve, among other tweaks, but to its regulars, this Big Ugly Fish will still be a sight for sore eyes.

“You’re never a stranger here but once,” Hanley explained.

The Big Ugly Fish opens its doors Tuesday. The order in question took immediate effect and expires October 31.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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