Many, but not all, Detroit area restaurants and bars prepare to open Monday

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Restaurants and bars in Metro Detroit may be allowed to reopen Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced, but that doesn't mean they all will. 

Some business owners think it's too soon to start inviting the public back into their dining rooms. Others aren't ready for various reasons, including safety, staffing and some that are under construction and were using this downtime to remodel. 

Tony Vulaj, manager of Tony V's Tavern, cleans tables in preparation for the day they are allowed to reopen. Other extensive work was done to the bar, including resurfacing of the floors, during the lockdown.  Photos taken in Detroit on May 19, 2020.

"I’m not comfortable with bringing people back into the restaurant yet, and I don’t think my staff is either," said Greg Mudge, owner of Mudgie's Deli in Corktown. The sandwich shop with bar, wine store and outdoor patio is a favorite in the city. Mudge actually decided to close the day before Whitmer's order came in March. He didn't reopen for carryout again until late April. 

Mudge says he doesn't "bat an eye" at any restaurant owner that does want to open. 

"People have to pay bills, people have to make money," he said. "I can't fault somebody." 

He will not be among them, though, and he says many of the people he's talked to in the industry share his feelings. 

"If anything, where we will be comfortable is opening up for the summer and only letting people sit outside. And if it's raining, carryout only," he said.

The comely outdoor patio at Mudgie's can seat 40, but he said he would likely downsize that to half capacity for social distancing. 

Joining Mudgie's in not rushing to reopen is Mabel Gray in Hazel Park, which will continue to offer curbside carryout while they prepare to reopen. Duo Restaurant and Lounge in Southfield also said it is excited to return, but it won't be on June 8. 

Rina Tonon of Cafe Cortina in Farmington Hills said the phone began ringing as soon as the news broke Monday afternoon. Customers were asking for reservations on their patio for large and small groups as soon as Monday. She had to instead book them for the second weekend of June because of the 200 capacity, "garden-to-table" restaurant was scheduled to get a new parking lot Monday. 

Cafe Cortina in Farmington Hills had reservations for large groups booked for their patio within minutes of Gov. Whitmer's Monday afternoon announcement.

"Within five minutes I had seven to eight calls for tables of 10, 12, 16 that wanted to sit on the patio," she said. "Well, Monday we're repaving our parking lot and I had everything all scheduled and then in the middle of the week we're replanting our flowers ... I thought (reopening) was going to maybe take off the end of June." 

Aside from the scheduled maintenance, Tonon says Cafe Cortina is ready. They've spent the downtime training staff, getting protocols in order and working on improving the 44-year-old destination, which is popular for weddings and showers. While they haven't been open for carryout, the kitchen has been churning out food that was donated to frontline workers and others that needed it during the pandemic. 

"I'm not going to complain at all," said Tonon, adding that she thinks Whitmer has done "a phenomenal job." "She's kept people safe, she's made good decisions, we just have to be patient and do it right." 

"I'm not of the opinion that we should have had more heads up," Tonon added. "We should have been prepared. Restaurants should have known this was coming." 

Mike Maciag, owner of the Oak Cafe in Wyandotte spent Monday afternoon calling beer distributors trying to get his bar re-stocked and ready to come back June 8. He's shooting for a 1 p.m. opening for the neighborhood hangout, which offers 245 bottled beers and 40 taps. 

"Juggling everything and trying to put the pieces together right now," he said. He connected with his beer reps and ordered fresh food for their pub-friendly menu. "Most of the stuff is going to come Monday morning so I hope it all comes in time." 

He felt lucky to get a whole week's notice, as opposed to the businesses in northern Michigan which had just a few days, and on a holiday weekend, no less. 

"Just today I field a text message out there (to staff) to see what everybody's availability is ... we're looking pretty good, everybody is excited to get back to work," he said, adding that some businesses up north had trouble staffing on such short notice. "A week is a good enough time for us." 

Bobcat Bonnie's owner Matthew Buskard excitedly took to social media Monday to say he'll be reopening four of his five his area locations except for Wyandotte, which is under construction. 

“We're going to now race to get open, because we have a lot to do to get that accomplished. Luckily (Whitmer) gave us a whole week to get prepared," said Buskard, adding that Bobcat Bonnie's will likely take carryout orders through Wednesday, and then close completely to prepare for Monday's reopen. 

"We're excited. I'm going to be very busy," he said.

Twitter: @melodybaetens