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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Rollback on COVID restrictions in the state may be too little, too late for some local businesses

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Posted at 9:46 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 21:46:21-05

(WSYM) — The loosened restrictions are a light at the end of the tunnel for some but one business owner says he only received one of the two grants he applied for and still hasn’t received a small business loan.

“Banks did not materialize fast enough,” says Robert Krimmel. He opened the Phoenix Restaurant in Sterling Heights over 30 years ago. He needed those loans badly.

“With this shutdown, it really took a toll on things,” Krimmel said.

The loosened restrictions announced Tuesday are too little too late. The decision to close was a difficult one for Krimmel, but staying open was even harder.

“You don’t want to get up in the morning and come in because you’re lucky to pay the bills versus putting money in your pocket," he said. "It’s just been a struggle.”

As of today, the Phoenix Restaurant joins thousands of others in the state that had to permanently close since the pandemic started. He says the increased capacity is good in theory but at this point in the pandemic, customers have changed their habits, utilizing drive-thrus and take out.

“It’s going to take a while before you get the customer base back in here and they feel comfortable,” Krimmel said.

At 50 percent capacity, restaurants still aren’t making a profit.

“I believe you’re going to see more small businesses close their doors,” Krimmel said.

Three Cats in Clawson on the other hand is more optimistic. They see signs of hope.

“It would be so great to have it at 50 percent because. I mean, anything is better than what it’s at now,” says Jonathon Horton, who works at Three Cats Cafe and the retail store next door under the same ownership.

Leon and LuLu’s is a curated retail space in a vintage roller rink. Retail shops like this one will be able to open at 50 percent capacity starting Friday and they are excited to welcome customers back.

“It’s a happier place than what’s happening out in the world," Horton said. "We’re bringing in new accessories to make everyone smile when they walk through the door."

Customers have been ordering more online since the pandemic started and now, when they shop in-person, they shop with intent. Leon and Lulu’s has been around for 15 years. Three Cats Cafe just opened months before the pandemic started.

“It’s been hard having to lay off staff twice and working only on a great carry out business,” Horton said.

The restaurant served many front-line workers during the pandemic and created a weekly meal kit that helped them keep the doors open.

Horton sees the curfew extension from 10 to 11 p.m. as a positive thing.

“Because we’ve had to turn people away especially on the weekends,” says Horton, adding it will be nice to have more people talking and laughing inside their restaurant once again.

Movie theaters can increase to 50 percent capacity as of Friday as well.

“It is a positive step back for our industry. It will allow us to get closer to operating without losses,” says Paul Glanz of Emagine Entertainment.