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Supervisor pulls resolution to open all township businesses

Governor has ‘difficult’ decisions to make, he says

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published July 1, 2020


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon pulled a business-related resolution he initially intended to include on the June 29 Board of Trustees agenda.   

The resolution, written to his fellow Board members, urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to immediately open all remaining closed businesses.

Cannon outlined the progression of Whitmer’s executive order — which began with a March 10 state of emergency and extended stay-at-home orders and the closure of schools March 23 and April 2, respectively.

On June 8, the governor lifted restrictions on dine-in bars and restaurants. However, as Cannon notes, restrictions have not helped all businesses — many of which he alluded to as “desperate.”

On July 1, Cannon said he took the item off the meeting agenda at the request of C.J. Barrymore’s owner Rick Iceberg, whose business was one of a handful mentioned by Cannon in the resolution. Others included movie theaters MJR at The Mall at Partridge Creek and AMC Star Gratiot, Total Axe and the Macomb Center for Performing Arts.

“(Iceberg would) rather have half a loaf than no loaf at all,” Cannon said, referring C.J. Barrymore’s being partly open with outdoor activities that include go-karts, miniature golf and beer offerings.

Cannon’s resolution did not include area fitness centers, which he removed due to a judge’s ruling. That judge’s ruling was later overturned June 24 by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, with fitness facilities forbidden from opening.

The supervisor requested state Rep. Bill Sowerby, D-District 31, to forward the township’s proposal to Whitmer. On June 25, Sowerby said the proposal had been delivered.

“I do, however, rely on the governor’s best judgment in deciding what businesses can safely open and when for the overall protection of the public and employees during the very seriousness of this ongoing pandemic,” Sowerby said. “A lot of the public is still very concerned about this pandemic and have concerns about entering businesses and protecting themselves and family members from possibly becoming infected with COVID-19. There is still a lot of concern and fears.”

C.J. Barrymore’s brings in people locally and regionally with its indoor and outdoor entertainment options. Over the years, Iceberg has invested millions of dollars into the facility.

Iceberg said June 26 that he hasn’t seen anything like the current situation in his 46 years of operating the Hall Road amusement facility.

“It just sucks,” he said. “It absolutely sucks. It makes it tough. Everyone is in the same boat and has the same problems. You can’t shut a business down for 110, 120 days and have it work.”

In recent years C.J. Barrymore’s has installed big rides that include a Ferris wheel and roller coasters.

“This is a big park, and we have big taxes and big payments,” Iceberg said, adding that Chemical Bank has helped them throughout the past few months.

C.J. Barrymore’s was open for just a few days in March until everything was shut down. The money-making season typically lasts 13 to 15 weeks.

Iceberg said the first real big push for business is spring break, in the first week of April, which provides a 10-day window and “a huge amount of money” to start the season. It also lost “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars” due to the cancellation of field trips for about 30,000 children, as well “easily a million bucks” from corporate parties. Many birthday parties have been canceled or postponed.

After employing about 320 people last year, including 200 to 250 high school and college-aged staffers, another 300 were set to return this year. Currently, C.J. Barrymore’s is between 100 and 150 employees short due to people finding other jobs. Iceberg said his team is “scrambling” to find workers.

“There’s got to be a better way to deal with a pandemic,” he said, adding that face masks and signage would be completely fine and that the 25-acre park has plenty of open space. “We’re destroying businesses. … There’s got to be a better way, there needs to be a better system because we could deal with this pandemic in the future.”

A handful of bars and restaurants have recently opened in greater capacity, by way of tables added outdoors with social distancing guidelines. Recently, Bobcat Bonnie’s at The Mall at Partridge Creek and Rusty Nail on Groesbeck Highway successfully applied for outdoor service.

Cannon confirmed that on June 30, the Red Robin restaurant on Hall Road, east of Hayes Road, was closed indefinitely due to three employees testing positive for COVID-19. He gave them “credit” for taking precaution and eventually likely reopening “wisely” with measures.

As for business owners and representatives of already reopened businesses, Cannon said he has not heard much from most of them. He acknowledged it’s a difficult time for most to reopen, due to the time of year and many individuals spending time outdoors and not putting themselves at risk.

“Everybody is worried that they’re not going to get the customers back that they once had,” he said. “From what I’m seeing, they’re probably accurate at this time.”

Even churches are at lower capacity, he added.

Cannon said that Whitmer’s “on the right track” with the phases, but also said citizens are desperate for normalcy and want to salvage a shorter season. He has talked to state representatives and senators in Lansing, but there are unknowns abound.

“The bottom line is, the governor is in charge and her orders are the law of the day, unless someone takes her to court like the gym clubs did and a judge ruled otherwise,” Cannon said July 1. “She’s making difficult decisions. I don’t agree with all of them, but I know and understand the pressure and discomfort she’s facing. She is affecting lives no matter what she does, one way or the other.”