Nail-biter: Michigan bar owners face prospect of Super Bowl continuing past 10 p.m. curfew

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Louie Golematif is hoping for a Hail Mary for when Super Bowl LV concludes Sunday.

Golematif, manager at the Shores Inn in St. Clair Shores, said he and his colleagues are struggling with what they will do if the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn't over by Michigan's 10 p.m. curfew.

“What if it’s 14-14 with 2.5 minutes to go and its 10 o’clock? What do you do? Kick everybody out?” said Golematif. "People are here to watch the game."

Michigan's restaurants were allowed to partially resume indoor dining on Monday amid the pandemic, but they are limited to 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 patrons and a required 10 p.m. closing time.

That presents a problem during one of the year's most-watched sporting events that includes numerous commercials and a lengthy halftime.

Sarah Smith, of Lansing, and Jennie (no last name given), of Ferndale, drink with friends, Saturday afternoon at Rosie O’Grady's in Ferndale.

The Super Bowl comes as the global pandemic has taken a toll on Michigan's restaurants and bars: An estimated 3,000 restaurants have closed over the last 11 months.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shut down bars and restaurants in March at the beginning of the pandemic, then allowed them to reopen in June at 50 percent capacity with social distancing

A second pause for indoor dining came in November during a second wave of the virus ahead of the holiday season. Michigan joined other states trying to combat the spread of COVID-19 and hospital overflow with some of the strictest guidelines for food and beverage establishments in the country.

Industry associations have pushed back on the closing of restaurants and bars while state officials have thanked people who work in the industry for their sacrifices.

During the six days that Michigan allowed restaurants to partially resume indoor dining this week, business has been brisk. The first open Saturday in weeks is so busy that managers at Rosie O'Grady's in Ferndale phone could barely talk on the phone.

Assistant Manager Chris Beasley said Rosie O'Grady's is open for the Super Bowl and has already posted on its social media platforms to let patrons know that it will close at 10 p.m.

Host and barback Johnny Luptak, of Ferndale, wipes down the bar.

"We're just telling them when we seat them what’s going on," said Beasley. 

Lauren Moore, manager of the Wheat & Rye Steak House in Allen Park, said she has not talked with her boss about what her place of business will do and wondered if some might break the rules.

"It might be something we play by ear," Moore said.

In New York, where there is also a 10 p.m. indoor dining curfew, an association that represents the city's restaurants and bars asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to let them stay open past 10. But Cuomo said no, saying that it risked the spread of COVID-19. 

St. Shores Inn's Golematif is hoping that the game is either a blowout or ends before 10 p.m. because he knows what the restaurant must do.

"We are going to have to follow the rules," said Golematif. "We are following the rules because we’d rather be open than shut. We want our employees to be working, rather than not working."