Lansing restaurants manage anxiety as the shutdown continues

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that restaurants are struggling.

The shelter-in-place orders in force for more than a month now have demanded extreme measures, from dialing back to curbside take-out service to turning off the lights and locking the doors.

And unless you have the right kind of license, not being able to dine in nixes the kind of extras — think alcohol — that help pad the bottom line.

While restrictions could be eased soon — perhaps as early as May 1 — getting people to come back and resume old habits like a leisurely Sunday brunch may take longer to get re-established, and that could mean trouble.

Mark Taylor, owner of Fidler’s on the Grand in Lansing, said he’s not the only one who is anxious.

“I think like most of the industry and all the individuals here locally, everybody is scrambling, trying to keep it together with as many bandages as they can get together,” Taylor said.

More than 75 percent of Fidler’s staff has been cut, and foot traffic to 4805 N. Grand River Ave. has gone down by a similar percentage.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to be fluid in this environment that no one has experienced before — at least, not in our generation,” Taylor said. The nimbler you are, he added, the better the likelihood of “still standing after all this is said and done.”

The prolonged nature of the shutdown appears to also be exacting a psychological toll.

“I think it’s that psychological pyramid, where the first time you hear it you don’t believe it,” Taylor said.

“And then, once you see that it’s going to take place, then you start to go ahead and process, maybe it’s not going to be as bad. It’s an emotionally tense environment because you, as a business owner, have to ensure that everyone who is working next to you is on the same page and understands the gravity of what’s taken place.”

The story reads about the same at Coral Gables in East Lansing. The restaurant at 2838 E. Grand River has survived a lot in a history going back to the late-’30s, and owner Stuart Vanis said loyalty is keeping them going now.

Business is down “dramatically,” he continued, resulting in 13 or 14 employees on duty instead of the usual 50.

“We have a very strong crew of people who are working very hard to keep the place going.”

Ordering fewer supplies, keeping fewer people working and keeping utilities down helps, but not quite enough because there’s still health insurance and rent to worry about.

Dishes the restaurant is known for, like its Friday night fish fries, its pizzas, burgers and Greek specials are helping Coral Gables stay the course.

Diners can ask for curbside carryout or come to the front counter, Vanis said — whatever people are most comfortable with.

While everyone is staying upbeat, there have been rougher days. The simple matter of making a deposit got complicated recently when none of their bank’s branches in the area were open.

Despite the challenges, Coral Gables still has plenty to report from the bright side.

“We’re seeing our customers, which is nice, every day,” Vanis said. “They have been extremely generous and very supportive, and that’s a positive thing. There are some good things that are coming out of this.”

Coral Gables

(517) 337-1311

Carryout and curbside service available

Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

2838 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing

Fidler’s On the Grand

(517) 580-7202

Carryout and curbside service available

Tuesday-Sunday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

4805 N. Grand River Ave., Lansing

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