Restaurants, bars, stores reopen in northern Michigan, UP

John L. Russell
Special to The Detroit News

Traverse City — Doors reopened at northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula restaurants, bars and stores on Friday, the first region of the state allowed to get back to business after the pandemic shutdown. Some watering holes, like Brady's Bar in Traverse City, opened to celebrants at 12:01 a.m. Friday in the first possible minute.

Kat Gray, general manager at CW's Restaurant in Alpena, said they've called back 15 waitstaff and opened at noon Friday. They were anticipating good crowds after seeing social media posts Thursday of traffic headed north on Interstate 75. They even booked a DJ.

Workers in Michigan's hospitality industry who who have faced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic will again have the opportunity to apply for a one-time assistance payment of up to $500 beginning this week.

"The word is out downstate that we are open," Gray said. "We've had a ton of calls."

Alpena is located in one of 17 northern Michigan counties that — along with the entire Upper Peninsula — that are under reduced restrictions as of Friday.

A hand-washing station sits on the sidewalk along Traverse City's East Front Street on Friday. Stations have been placed around the downtown area.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order reopens retail businesses and offices as well as bars and restaurants operating at half capacity. Businesses must train employees on health and safety protocols, keep groups six feet from one another and require workers to wear face coverings.

But the owner of Brady’s Bar had a message for people who are thinking of making a road trip to Traverse City: Stay away from her business.

Doug and Kim Lapp of Mount Pleasant sit outside a restaurant Friday in Traverse City on Friday. The couple drove up for the weekend. "We are so happy to be outside in Traverse City eating great food on a nice summer day," said Kim.

“We deserve to feel safe and I would like to keep my staff and customers as safe as I can, and I’m asking that people from downstate don’t come in until they’re quarantined or their areas are also opened up,” said Nolen Sleder, who limited her bar early Friday morning to about 20 people in the front section, and 20 in back.

By Friday afternoon, out-of-towners had begun arriving. Doug and Kim Lapp of Mount Pleasant drove up for the weekend. "We are so happy to be outside in Traverse City eating great food on a nice summer day," said Kim, as they dined at a table on the sidewalk.

The business district of downtown Traverse City was busier Friday afternoon than it has been, but was not especially crowded. Hand-washing stations have been installed on city sidewalks.

At Golden Shoes in Traverse City, Gus Walworth, right, checks store owner Bill Golden's temperature the shoe store opened for the summer under strict guidelines for safety for customers and employees. A health sheet is kept by Golden for all employees to track their body temperatures.

Bill Golden, owner of Golden Shoes in downtown Traverse City, is keeping a chart of employees' body temperature, which are checked each day when they arrive at work and while they are working: "We want everyone — customers and employees — to be safe and healthy."

Staff Writer Christine MacDonald and the Associated Press contributed.