Coworkers from a downtown Birmingham business grabbed lunch at Dick O’Dow’s pub Feb. 1 on the day indoor dining reopened in Michigan.

Coworkers from a downtown Birmingham business grabbed lunch at Dick O’Dow’s pub Feb. 1 on the day indoor dining reopened in Michigan.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Birmingham Restaurant Week gets a boost as restrictions ease

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 8, 2021

 Dick O’Dow’s pub owner Mitch Black said now that indoor dining is allowed again, he plans to keep the outdoor patio open to diners and guests waiting for an indoor table.

Dick O’Dow’s pub owner Mitch Black said now that indoor dining is allowed again, he plans to keep the outdoor patio open to diners and guests waiting for an indoor table.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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BIRMINGHAM — For the second time during this pandemic, restaurants across Michigan welcomed diners again last week after a months-long indoor dining ban.

The reopening, though, comes with even stricter caveats than last time in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Eateries are restricted to only 25% of their seating occupancy, and they need to close their doors by 10 p.m.

But it’s not so bad, really. That’s according to Mitch Black, the owner of Dick O’Dow’s pub in downtown Birmingham.

“In a normal year, if you were getting 25% in February, you’d be doing backflips,” Black explained. “That’s the slowest month of the year.

“Now, ask me about the curfew.”

The requirement to close by 10 p.m. is a tough one to swallow for the pub owner, who depends on an afternoon and evening crowd of customers to keep his whole staff working.

“It’s hard to schedule, because you don’t want to work people 10- to 12-hour days. Conversely, if you have a cook working for, say, a four-hour shift, he’s not making enough to support his family,” Black said. “(The hours restriction) is long enough to make it worthwhile to open for us but too short to effectively take care of our employees. We would’ve preferred the option to let us try and control our own environment.”

And with one of the larger spaces in Birmingham, Black said he could definitely keep customers safe past 10 p.m., even while serving alcohol. His pub boasts a capacity of 320 people, and the back room features 30-foot ceilings and a 25-foot garage door wall. Not to mention the heated patio that he’s been operating since November.

“It’s been a lifesaver. It’s kept our staff working,” he said.

The option to serve diners on an outdoor patio has been vital, too, for Bill Roberts, of Roberts Restaurant Group. The front patio at Streetside Seafood in downtown Birmingham, normally open for al fresco dining in the spring and summer months, has been covered and heated for customers throughout the indoor dining ban.

“We’re happy that we have indoor dining back, and now (we) consider the patios indoor dining,” Roberts said. “We’re pleased with where we are; we just don’t understand why we weren’t allowed 50% capacity. It seems like all the numbers show that the state is safe, the industry is safe, it’s safe to dine in restaurants. The whole industry is anxious to get back to 50%.”

Any increase in business is positive, though, and it seems restaurants in Birmingham have seen at least a little jump. Erika Bassett, of the Birmingham Shopping District, said she’s been keeping an eye on how restaurateurs have fared during Birmingham Restaurant Week Jan. 25-Feb. 7. The indoor dining ban was lifted halfway through the popular promotion.

The BSD offered customers $25 in Birmingham Bucks for every $50 they spent during Restaurant Week, which can be spent at a variety of participating businesses in the city. If the redemption of Birmingham Bucks is any indication of how successful Restaurant Week was, then Bassett has good news.

“We just received preliminary bucks through yesterday, and we’re at approximately $10,000 in Birmingham Bucks submissions,” she said. “The remaining few days aren’t due until next week, so we anticipate that number to be around $25,000.”

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