Restaurants, workers get creative to make ends meet during coronavirus shutdown

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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) (3/16/2020) - Dining out in Michigan changed at 3 p.m., when all bars and restaurants in the state closed their dining rooms due to an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

EG Nicks is getting creative to make ends meet while restaurants are closed to dine-in customers.

She is wasting no time addressing the seriousness of the coronavirus spreading and the need to practice social distancing. Monday's order will remain in effect for two weeks until March 30 -- or longer if Whitmer extends it.

The order covers restaurants, bars, movie theaters, coffee houses, gyms, performance venues, recreation centers, spas and casinos. Foodservice establishments will be allowed to offer carryout or delivery options.

The order does not cover office buildings, grocery stores, food pantries, pharmacies and medical facilities.

Jeff Ryeson, who owns EG Nicks in Lapeer and several other restaurants, was preparing for the order before it came. He said it wasn't a matter of if it was going to happen, but when.

"We've thought about a lot of things and we have a pretty good game plan on what we want to do to survive this," Ryeson said.

He is planning to get creative to survive during the pandemic.

"We want to do some prepackaged family-style food. Like if you want to come in and get a pan of pasta and a salad and take it home and heat it up yourself you can do that," Ryeson said.

EG Nicks will be offering carryout, delivery and some daily specials to meet the needs of loyal patrons. Cleanliness remains a top priority for Ryson.

"We're super sanitizing everything," he said. "All my staff will have gloves on. Obviously, if they have symptoms, they're not going to work."

While Whitmer's order is certainly a major inconvenience for business owners and customers, there is a sense of optimism that this too shall pass.

"The American people are strong people," Ryeson said. "We're going to be okay. We're going to survive."

Alexis Begley, who has worked at EG Nicks for four years, was emotional after Monday's announcement. She feels scared and nervous because she relies on tips as a bartender to make a living.

Whitmer's order takes away most chances for getting tips. So what can people do to help during this unprecedented time?

-- Consider buying gift cards at your favorite restaurants when you order carry out.
-- Overtip the people who deliver your food. That extra few bucks could mean the difference between whether or not the bills get paid.
-- Once this pandemic ends, get right back out and support your local businesses.

"I go to school and I pay for my classes and I work five or six days a week to pay for school," Begley said. "I'm a hard worker and I've never not worked, so it's going to be weird for sure just trying to make ends meet."

Whitmer has extended unemployment benefits for Michigan workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.