Indoor dining reopens in Macomb County

By: Alex Szwarc, Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 8, 2021

  Mukim Chowdhury, who has been the owner of the restaurant Little India in Shelby Township for five years, stands at the front desk of his restaurant  Feb. 2.

Mukim Chowdhury, who has been the owner of the restaurant Little India in Shelby Township for five years, stands at the front desk of his restaurant Feb. 2.

Photo provided by Mukim Chowdhury

SHELBY TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — In November, the state of Michigan enacted a temporary indoor dining ban that lasted over 10 weeks.

The order was lifted Feb. 1, the first day bars and restaurants could reopen, albeit with restrictions in place.

Dave Stange, of Macomb Township, visited Sherwood Brewing Co. on Hayes Road in neighboring Shelby Township Feb. 1.

“We’ve been trying to support a lot of local restaurants during this whole closure that goes back to March,” he said. “We’ve been going to Sherwood now for 10 years and have become friends with the owner.”

Stange said his family considers Sherwood its own “Cheers” hangout, a place to relax and socialize.

“It’s been missing from our lives,” he said. “There’s been lots of weekends and Friday nights where the family is done working and think it’s too bad we can’t go in.”    

As the weather got colder, he said dining outside isn’t quite the same, even if heaters are provided.

“Nothing beats being inside, sitting around a table and just talking,” he said.

Having not seen some family members in about a month, Stange said dining in was a nice chance to get together and commiserate over life.

Aside from plenty of signage about mask wearing and social distancing, Stange said safety protocols included wearing a mask until seated, and tables being spaced out.

“I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all about being in there,” he said. “With the 25% capacity, there weren’t many people in there.”

Some guidelines for indoor dining, as stated on a diagram released by the state of Michigan, include that establishments are limited to 25% capacity and no more than 100 people at a time; no more than six people can be seated at a table; mask usage except when eating or drinking; and that businesses should collect names and numbers of patrons for exposure notification.   

Stange also noticed that after menus were returned, staff sanitized them.

A slip of paper was on the table so one person from a party could provide their name and phone number for contact tracing.

Stange sensed that employees were glad to be back at it.

“It was nice to see them again because the majority of who I saw are longtime servers,” he said. “It was a welcome home type of atmosphere.”

Stange said he made it a point to leave a generous tip with the server.

“I know it’s been hard on them and I’ve been trying to do that across the board,” he said.

At the end of the day, Stange said it was very enjoyable to dine out again, calling it a nice change of pace.

Restaurant owners react
Sherwood owners Ray and Lisa Sherwood said they got the feeling the first couple of days of being reopened that the business had been missed by customers during the in-person ban.  

Lisa Sherwood said there have been some hiccups here and there over the past 11 months.

“You get to the point where we’ve been shut down and opened up so many times that it’s tough to figure out how to staff,” she said. “You have to get creative and innovative, finding new ways to do things.”

Ray Sherwood noted that the business is still doing quite a bit of carryout orders.

He added that some safety measures at Sherwood include employee health screening, mask wearing for employees at all times, and a COVID-19 cleaning checklist in addition to the normal restaurant checklist.  

“It was heartbreaking knowing that time of the year makes up for the slow times,” Ray Sherwood said when asked what the most challenging part of the in-person shutdown was. “Going into the holidays, people get stir-crazy pretty quick in the fall and winter.”

For Mukim Chowdhury, who has been the owner of the restaurant Little India in Shelby Township for five years, he said this pandemic has brought a lot of ups and downs.

Little India, located at 8194 23 Mile Road, has become a second home for Chowdhury, and things just haven’t been the same since the pandemic. He missed his guests who have been dining with him regularly, and he missed the interaction with them. Some guests count on him for a recommendation on what to order.

“I really like to meet with all my guests to know how much they like my food and service,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Little India was doing only carryout and delivery. Now that it is able to reopen, the restrictions aren’t helping much.

“Our dining room was closed for COVID-19 and we were losing our revenue. Now we’re reopening our dining room again with 25% capacity. I have small group, 50-people-capacity party rooms, but I can’t use that; I even have a 50-person reservation for Feb. 20. Unfortunately, I canceled it last week because of the state restrictions. We don’t know how long we have to wait for that,” he said.

The pandemic has affected the restaurant’s employees who were laid off or had their hours reduced.

“I really respect them all for still ... staying with me to fight against this crisis. Hope we’ll run through this soon. Please support local small business,” said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury is thankful to be in Shelby Township with all the support the residents have shown his business during this difficult time.

“I really, really appreciate ... their great support,” he said.