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Vassar restaurant prepares to reopen after waiting-out 25-percent capacity cap

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 10:37 PM EST
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VASSAR, Mich. (WJRT) (3/3/2021)--Rising vaccination numbers are one of the many factors pushing the state to expand indoor dining capacity starting Friday.

Bars and restaurants have been under a stringent 25-percent limit since February 1. For a number of businesses, including in Mid-Michigan, the numbers just didn’t add up with seating so limited. ABC12 first reported Cork Pine Eatery and Saloon’s decision to wait it out back in January. But with this latest move from the state, the Vassar eatery is getting back to work

“It’s just a process we’ve got to go through… We’re just making sure what’s good and what’s not, throwing out what’s not, reordering, making lists.”

The frantic prep work comes only a day after the Whitmer administration cleared restaurants to again bump up seating to half capacity. Good enough for Cork Pine co-owner Don Leiterman, who told ABC12 in late January he intended to keep his doors closed until restrictions relaxed enough he could be sure a reopen wouldn’t backfire.

“We did wind up getting an SBA loan, which would have helped us,” he said. “But, 25-percent, without that loan, I felt within a month or two that we’d be going under.”

One of the industries hardest hit by months of shutdowns and seating caps, for restaurant owners, the pandemic spelled a staggering level of hardship: according to the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, three thousand plus restaurants have since gone under. In excess of 200-thousand workers statewide have been impacted on some level.

“At 50-percent, we brought back most of our employees by reopening.” Leiterman related. “We lost a couple, going to jobs in other places and I can’t blame them. Their unemployment’s going to run out.”

On a Tuesday Facebook post announcing Cork Pine’s plans to reopen, well-wishes from dozens of regulars, who signaled their excitement ahead of the big day next week.

“It’s nice to see everybody coming and going again,” Leiterman said.

Burning the midnight oil to restock and make sure everything’s in working order, Don’s just ready to flick the open sign on and see some familiar faces.

“We’re excited to get back and see everybody. I’m tired of sitting talking to my wife,” he laughed. “She’s tired of me too! She can’t wait to get back.”

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