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 Restricted from having diners the day before St. Patrick’s Day, some restaurants, like Pat O’Brien’s Tavern, are offering carryout orders.

Restricted from having diners the day before St. Patrick’s Day, some restaurants, like Pat O’Brien’s Tavern, are offering carryout orders.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


St. Clair Shores business community reacts to coronavirus pandemic

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Tiffany Esshaki | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 20, 2020

ST. CLAIR SHORES — In every community around Michigan, there is an eerie stillness where, not long ago, there was hustle and bustle: School desks sit empty, barstools grow cold, store shelves lie bare.

But don’t be fooled. While the world may be hunkered down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some local businesses are alive and open, waiting to serve their neighbors any way they can during this crisis.

With hopes of slowing down the spread of the disease, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined with several other states last week and ordered wide-reaching lockdowns on a variety of businesses, from bars and restaurants to fitness studios and beyond.

The aim is to stop people from congregating in large numbers and potentially passing along the virus at a speed that could put a major strain on the region’s medical resources. That means, though, that small businesses are suffering their own ailments. Without the resources and financial backing of stakeholders to lean on, those small, independent operations face not just diminished revenue, but also potential layoffs, missed vendor payments or maybe worse.

On March 18, Gina Carriveau said that the pandemic is definitely affecting her business, The Loop Hair and Nail Salon, 25837 Jefferson Ave., in St. Clair Shores.

“Since yesterday, (the salon has had) about eight cancellations for the week. Mostly older people and people with health issues,” she said. “The rest of the people, they sit here and say they feel perfectly fine coming here.”

Carriveau said the salon has, of course, always been “extra clean,” but now they’re taking extra precautions, using alcohol spray to sanitize the desk and the stations often. She said that she has also reduced the number of stylists in the salon each day from four to two to reduce the number of people in the building at one time.

“That makes people feel better. We’re spacing our clients out,” she said. “We’re splitting up the workweek and we’re just, overall, we’re not as busy as we normally are this time of year, but we’re staying open, and that’s just that.”

She said that the salon is a place where people can go to feel better and take care of themselves, so it’s important to stay open.

“They like to take care of themselves and look good, and the social aspect. ... People are already feeling anxious and bored out of their minds. They look forward to coming to the hair salon,” she said.

Mary Bricolas, the owner of Shores Inn in St. Clair Shores and Great Baraboo Brewing Company in Clinton Township, said, “It’s going to have a significant impact.

She said that everyone needs to support one another and come together “as a family” in this difficult time.  

Although Whitmer’s executive order stated that restaurants could remain open for carryout during the two-week closure, Bricolas said that their menus are too large and extensive to accommodate carryout business, so her restaurants closed March 16. Bricolas said she told all of her staff to come in and pick up any perishable food items that they wished to take.

“God bless all of us,” she said. “Follow the (Centers for Disease Control) rules for social distancing to stop the virus.”

Rich Kohl, the owner of Pat O’Brien’s Tavern, said that for Irish pub owners like himself, it was tough to shut the doors to sit-down diners just before March 17. St. Patrick’s Day is like Black Friday, he said.

He understands that closing down restaurants to diners is supposed to help hospitals handle the flow of patients, but for restaurants like his, it’s a major blow.

“We’re delaying (the spread, but) small, family-owned restaurants, there’s going to be a lot of people who can’t make it,” he said.

Kohl said last week that he has tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of liquor and beer that he cannot return and can’t sell until the pub can reopen for dine-in business.

“We ramped up, and now we can’t get it back. It’s a hard hit for these Irish bars,” he said.

Kohl said that Pat O’Brien’s Tavern is turning into a carryout-only business, with online ordering at POBTavern.com.

“We’ve got great food, so we’re just going to do it,” he said. “People have got to eat, and a lot of people don’t cook.”

Kohl said that for now, he’s looking at it as a new venture.

“We’re looking at this as a new business. We’re now a carryout business until we can come back.”

Legislators and business associations at every level are doing what they can to lessen the blow to those businesses, but what those merchants really need now is support, from customers and one another.

“I’m so proud to see the state’s small business resources rally together in this time of crisis. The stories we are hearing from the small businesses affected by COVID-19 are devastating,” Michigan Small Business Development Center State Director J.D. Collins said in a prepared statement.

Shining a spotlight on community-based organizations and businesses has never been more important, and that’s where the Demers family feels like they can do their part to help during the pandemic. As the owners of C & G Newspapers, with 19 publications dedicated to hyperlocal news coverage and advertising, the family feels a huge responsibility to keep residents informed about what is going on in their own backyard, said Managing Editor Gregg Demers.

“I think every businessperson feels the same way; they’re all pitching in to get everyone through this terrible crisis. That’s when we really see the best in people,” he said. “I’m so pleased with the response from all our employees, and how dedicated they are to getting the job done and keeping readers connected to their community and informed about what’s happening where they live. I think that’s the role we can play to help get through this, and it’s an important one.”