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“That light’s getting dim”: Huron County restaurants fearful for future amid case spike

Huron County restaurants fearful for future amid case spike
Huron County restaurants fearful for future amid case spike(WJRT)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 10:48 PM EDT
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HURON CO., Mich. (WJRT) -As the coronavirus pandemic gathers strength, Huron County remained one of the hardest-hit Thursday.

The Health Department posted to Facebook, highlighting open vaccination appointments for a clinic this Saturday. The County says it’s received more doses from the state than usual to deal with the increase. Even so, businesses in the area, specifically restaurants, worried over their futures in the short-term. ABC12 touched base with several Thursday as each prepared for several possible scenarios, all of which carried a potential cost.

“It’s been quite a challenge.”

Heading into 2020, business – and the future--looked bright at the Farm Restaurant. Once riding the wave, these days, Co-Owner Chris Roth is barely keeping his head above water.

“We’re down drastically… based on two years ago numbers, it’s probably close to 50-percent,” Roth said.

A well-timed PPP loan had gotten his Port Austin restaurant through up to now. But, after five, six months with the lights off, Roth told ABC12 he was worried history may soon repeat itself.

“I have a feeling that in the next few weeks, we’re going to wind up shut down for one reason or another,” he related.

More than half of all tests in rural Huron County now come back positive. One of the state’s epicenters for new cases, experts blame increased engagement and record-setting travel in the case of returning spring-breakers. The spike stoked fears the governor may again push the brakes, though Whitmer indicated recently she had no plans to touch off more closures.

“It could happen,” Aaron Larkin explained. “I’m watching these numbers and they’re going up and up… It looked like we were looking at a light at the end of the tunnel and all of the sudden, that light’s getting dim.”

Down the shoreline in the quiet, tourist-friendly Village of Sebewaing, the Lamplighter highlighted another concern during a Thursday phone conversation with ABC12; Larkin, the establishment’s co-owner, told this reporter he and several of his employees had just emerged from self-quarantine, after another worker tested positive back in mid-March.

“I shut down for three days to do a deep clean… I ended up being down for a week,” he said. “That’s the first time that’s happened. I’ve been here for 23 years.”

“I think it’s kept a lot of people away from the Thumb,” Roth related. “Numbers have been way down.”

Roth recently hung clear plastic dividers in between every table to make those who do stop in feel safer – small tweaks he hoped would give him an edge and keep his business alive to see another day.

“I would just urge everybody to get vaccinated,” he said.

As of Monday, Michigan residents 16 and older now qualify for that shot in the arm.

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