Adachi Japanese restaurant in downtown Birmingham will be doing carryout and curbside service during the three-week indoor dining ban mandated by the state health department.

Adachi Japanese restaurant in downtown Birmingham will be doing carryout and curbside service during the three-week indoor dining ban mandated by the state health department.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Downtown restaurants hold on through new dine-in ban

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 19, 2020

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BIRMINGHAM — As we approach a time of year that’s usually filled with food, drinks and warm embraces, restaurants in Michigan are being forced to close their doors to dine-in guests.

The ban on indoor dining, which is slated to last for a period of three weeks beginning Nov. 18, is one of several stipulations in a new emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to curb skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Experts say that without intervention, the pandemic could soon infect so many residents that hospitals would reach capacity and be unable to treat patients in need, both with space and medical personnel.

The order states that gatherings should be limited to people from just one or two households, organized sports should be postponed, and masks or facial coverings are required in public with exceptions for medical, religious and other exemptions outlined by the MDHHS.

But for the hospitality industry, which already took a major hit this spring with extended closures caused by the pandemic, the new three-week ban on indoor dining comes as another blow. Like before, customers can partake in carryout, delivery and curbside service, but eating or drinking at restaurants and bars is prohibited for the duration of the ban unless socially distanced outdoor seating is provided.

To make up for the somewhat lackluster summer sales season the pandemic caused, the city of Birmingham approved a resolution in August to allow restaurants to keep their patio seating open throughout the winter, if they could do so safely, comfortably and within the confines of city ordinance.

That’s what Blake George, a partner in Adachi restaurant, on South Old Woodward, had planned to do. The high-end Japanese restaurant assumed they would be able to serve outdoor guests for a while longer, but under the new order they found it necessary to switch to curbside carryout and delivery only.

“Were we prepared for this? Yes. Expecting it? No,” said George. “We invested heavily in a tent for this reason, but with the recent order we are not able to use it, which is very unfortunate.”

After the spring, George said, Adachi stepped up their technology to make online ordering smoother for customers and staff in the kitchen cooking up carryout orders.

To further streamline things, George said, they’re introducing a new feature during this new dine-in shutdown: pre-fixed boxes with specially curated menu selections.

“Our signature boxes include a chef’s tasting, yakitori box, burger box, sushi box and some other top signature items,” he explained. “We want to bring the ambiance from Adachi to your dining room table, and it starts with how luxurious our boxes are.”

Ingrid Tighe, the executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District, is confident the restaurants in downtown Birmingham have what it takes to wow customers, even in carryout boxes.

The trick is, though, to get people to those restaurants in the first place. And when you need to boost foot traffic, adding a little eye candy is always a good idea.

“It is imperative for us to support our downtown restaurants while indoor dining is prohibited,” Tighe said in an email. “Therefore, the Birmingham Shopping District is promoting outdoor dining and take-out options during this time. Additionally, we are promoting activities like the Great Decorate to encourage people to come into the city and visit our restaurants and retailers during the holiday season.”

The BSD is getting ready to host, for the first time, a holiday tree decorating competition. Merchants downtown will partner with local artists to create elaborate holiday trees and compete to win a small business grant.

The best part is that each tannenbaum will go beyond delivering much needed Christmas cheer to admirers. Every one will represent a local foster teen with the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, a statewide information and referral service for families interested in adoption.

Visitors who head to Birmingham to shop, dine and stroll through the city this season are encouraged to enjoy the displays at more than 40 venues, vote for their favorite and make a donation in any amount in person or online at thegreatecorate.com.

Tara Fortney is a foster parent and a co-founder of The Great Decorate. She, along with Beth Hussey, the co-owner of Hazel, Ravines and Downtown restaurant, dreamed up The Great Decorate in 2019 as a team-building competition among the staff. The event gained so much attention and success that this year they’re welcoming all downtown businesses to participate.

“We are so excited to bring back this charitable effort in an even bigger way in 2020,” said Hussey in a prepared statement. “We want to work together with our community to help those who really need it.”

Efforts like that may not fix all of the damage COVID-19 caused this year, but so many are doing what they can to make any difference for the servers, cooks and other restaurant staff that will be impacted by the ban.

“We are doing our best to accommodate as many staff members as we can and retain our awesome team,” George said. “We obviously don’t have the need for specific roles, being closed. So what we’re planning on doing is finding various tasks inside the restaurant like deep cleaning areas and reorganizing, to give our employees additional ways to make money during the shutdown. We are also holding paid training classes for our staff to help offset their missing hours as best we can.”

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