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East Lansing restaurant owners and diners enjoying looser restrictions on indoor dining

The Peanut Barrel indoor sign
Posted at 9:59 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 23:09:28-05

MSU CAMPUS — With pandemic restrictions easing and indoor dining capacity doubling from 25 percent to 50 percent, East Lansing restaurant owners say they appreciate being able to open their businesses to bigger crowds.

“At 25 percent, it was OK. At 50 percent it really feels a whole lot better,” said Joe Bell, owner of The Peanut Barrel.

Another East Lansing go-to, Lou & Harry’s, says customers are already eager to get back to their favorite tables.

“I think it’s a great thing. Now we can fill our tables, even at 25% we weren’t able to fill our tables even leaving two or three out because we still couldn’t fill them all with how many people we would need in here,” said Lou & Harry’s General Manager Shane Carney.

The Michigan Department Of Health And Human Services is allowing bars and restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity as long as proper COVID -19 prevention methods are in place. At The Peanut Barrel, guests are required to fill out a contact tracing form.

Indoor diners like Roger Ghaderi appreciate that businesses are keeping safety in mind.

“They make sure you write down the name and phone number of anyone in case there’s an outbreak of any kind so it can be manageable,” Ghaderi said.

Crunchy's employee takes down diner information for contact tracing
Crunchy's employee takes down diner information for contact tracing

In addition to welcoming back diners, some restaurants are welcoming back staff with the new pandemic guidance.

“Our payroll is probably up about 25 percent now, which is like 100 hours per week,” Bell said.

Mike Krueger, the owner of Crunchy’s, another East Lansing favorite, spoke at the press conference Tuesday where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the changes to pandemic guidance, which include an upper limit of 100 customers regardless of the size of the restaurant.

“It felt really good to be able to help share that news. It wasn’t quite what we wanted, you know from an industry standpoint. It doesn’t do anything for the larger venues that have more than 200 people. It also doesn’t help the smaller restaurants that can’t open up more because they can’t space out their tables the way they need to,” Krueger said.

Joe Bell visits with indoor diners at The Peanut Barrel
Joe Bell visits with indoor diners at The Peanut Barrel.

Belll said he’s grateful to open up a little more and hopes to keep moving in the right direction.

“We went from the huge 24 diners to now 48 diners. So, we’d like to be at 95 but those days are down the road a bit,” Bell said.

For some, getting to enjoy indoor dining with more guests feels like a reward after such a strange year.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing you know. People have worked for a really long time to take the vaccine or isolate themselves from other people. It’s time to get back to normalcy,” Ghaderi said.

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