Letter: Why I fight for my Michigan restaurant to stay open

The Detroit News

Café Rosetta saved me. As a single mom, newly divorced with six kids that only knew welfare, my Calumet restaurant gave me a place to focus my energy and sense of pride. My life turned around seven years ago after my brother Jake made an investment in a coffee and pastry shop in our hometown, and I threw my love of baking into building a successful breakfast and lunch restaurant with him.

I never would have thought that I would be involved in a legal fight to protect my livelihood, Heikkinen writes.

I never would have thought that I would be involved in a legal fight to protect my livelihood. We survived during the first COVID-19 shutdown. We used common sense measures and took health and safety precautions to protect our customers and employees. When sales declined 30%, I arranged for my 30 employees to work split shifts so everyone could have hours. Like me, our staff wasn’t afraid to work. We have to work to survive.

When the governor announced last month that the state health department was targeting restaurants and bars to close and only allowing carryout services, my stomach dropped, but I knew that I would keep my restaurant open. How can the stores across the street still be open and the big box store ten miles away have wall to wall people but we can't serve any customers? It doesn't make sense. There is no way I am going to lay off my employees and not have the finances to pay my bills.

Returning home after a long day on my feet taking care of Café Rosetta, I turn to the new pile of work delivered to me by the local health department. If it weren’t for the community that has supported me, I would collapse. We are now being fined $1,000 a day from MDHHS for being open for indoor dining.

A warning letter was delivered on November 17th and a cease and desist order on November 25th. Another document shows a $4,000 fine for some civil infraction. It has now been 30 days since the first one arrived. I do the math, $34,000. I cannot afford the fines. I cannot afford to close.

I grab my note pad as my mind flips to tomorrow. I need to order food supplies, check the employees' schedules, do payroll, calculate and file the taxes, work the noon rush because an employee is out of town and order the shirts. Then I have to waste four hours sitting through a legal hearing about something I supposedly did wrong.

We were faced with a choice: Close the doors and lose our business forever or remain open and defend our business and possibly lose it anyway. When you have six children, the choice is simple: You take care of the family.

Amy Heikkinen, co-owner of Café Rosetta