Michigan indoor dining set to reopen Feb. 1

Storefront+of+Donckers+restaurant+located+downtown+Marquette

Ashley Beronja/NW SWEET TREATS – The traditional building is home to the local downtown Marquette restaraunt, Donckers, located on Washington Street.

Joad Blaauw-Hara

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced in a press conference that indoor dining in the state of Michigan is set to reopen on Feb. 1 with limited capacity and advanced precautions still in effect.

“While we must remain vigilant and cautious, we can lift some protocols that were previously in place,” Whitmer said. “Unfortunately, this is an industry that has to have some planning time to be able to ramp up, to be able to bring staff on and to be able to purchase supplies,”

According to the Jan. 21 press release from the Department of Health and Human Services in Lansing, regulations for indoor dining will include – the number of patrons a venue can have does not exceed 25% normal capacity or 100 persons, indoor dining must close from 10-4 a.m. and must have the MDHHS “Dining During COVID-19” brochure.

While restaurants have to wait until the Feb. 1 date to reopen, the lift on the ban has already been in effect at the dining halls on campus. 

“Since the current order does provide an exception for colleges and university cafeterias to allow in-house dining, and the majority of the preliminary test results have been received, Northern Lights Dining has re-opened the dining room as of today (Jan. 25),” Paul Schoonveld, NMU dining director, said. “We ask that students still respect social distancing guidelines and we have positioned no more than four chairs at each table for the safety of our team and our students,”

To make sure that Northern Lights Dining stays safe when reopening indoor dining, Schoonveld said that dining employees will continue to focus on proper handwashing, social distancing and increased sanitization and disinfecting of frequently used surfaces.

“We have installed additional barriers in all locations and continue to provide training to our team to keep both students and team members safe,” Schoonveld said. “We will continue to emphasize the benefits of online ordering and will regularly evaluate our operations to ensure the highest level of safety is achieved,”

The lift on indoor dining affects more than just campus dining, as restaurants around Marquette begin to prepare for this change in service. Donckers, a popular restaurant in downtown Marquette, said that they would attempt to be as close to normal as possible after the lifting of the ban. In order to keep all customers safe, however, Donckers would be following all CDC recommendations through the course of the pandemic phase.

The change in regulation affects more than just businesses as a whole, but many student workers who are employed there. Marissa Mangoni, a former worker at the Red Lobster in Marquette, said that she only had to work with guests who were dining in.

“I’m not able to work there until the ban is lifted. The ban has affected other hosts and other people who only work during dine-in hours because they are most likely out of a job,” Mangoni said. “The ban has made it harder to make ends meet and made me have to look into other options of employment.”

It doesn’t look like the change in regulations will prompt a change in Mangoni’s employment options. Instead, she has found a new job to supplement the loss of income.

“Because of how unstable the ban lift is, by that meaning the ban can be put back into place at any time, I actually got a new job that isn’t gonna be affected by bans,” Mangoni said.

In her press conference Whitmer also reminded Michiganders to be vigilant in the fight against COVID-19

“Michigan continues to be a national leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way. One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together,” Whitmer said.