Ann Arbor businesses plan reopenings amid COVID-19

Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 5:03pm

Ann Arbor business announce plans of reopening amidst COVID-19.

Ann Arbor business announce plans of reopening amidst COVID-19. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

On June 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan’s stay-at-home order, allowing bars and restaurants to reopen on June 8 for dining at 50 percent capacity. The next day, Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution closing some main streets in the city like East Liberty Street, South State Street and South University Avenue from 2 p.m. on Fridays to 8 p.m on Sundays to enable restaurants to expand outside dining. 

Though COVID-19 rates are decreasing in Michigan, many business owners are still taking safety and health precautions when interacting with customers such as wearing gloves and masks, consistently sanitizing surfaces and limiting customer capacity. 

Good Time Charley’s, a bar and restaurant located on South University Avenue, just opened for dine-in services last week. 

Kyle Froelich, the general manager at Charley’s, said the bar is taking extra precautions to screen customers and clean the restaurant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“(We are) trying to figure out the floor plan and also trying to get the employees to understand all the new regulations with when they come in, that they have to take their temperature, cleaning up tables constantly, wiping things down, sanitizing all the time and just getting people to get used to what is known as the ‘new norm’ now,” Froelich said. 

Froelich said Charley’s faced challenges first with adapting to COVID-19 restriction and then with switching over to limited dine-in capacity. 

“We had to make a transition in both ways just because when we first switched to delivery and take-out, we would do take-out, but it wasn’t a whole lot of our business,” Froelich said. “Making that transition back, it was kind of hectic. It almost was like opening a new restaurant just because we don’t necessarily have all of the answers as to what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Angelo’s, a family-run brunch spot located on the corner of Catherine Street and Glen Avenue, has also created new health and safety protocols since reopening. The restaurant has cut their capacity in half, moved tables, expanded their outdoor patio space, supplied hand sanitizer and masks for customers and employees, provided contactless and disposable menus and made sure to sanitize surfaces and tables between each use.

Angelo’s owner Steve Vangelatos said business remained slow despite the easing of stay-at-home orders. 

“Well, it’s obviously slow,” Vangelatos said. “Each day it seems like it’s getting a little bit better, but a lot of people still aren’t ready to venture out.”

Vangelatos also said future business will be affected based on the University of Michigan’s decisions for the upcoming school year. 

“I don’t know if the University announced if the students will be coming back officially,” Vangelatos said. “That’s going to be big for us. Coming back in September, that’s really when we’re going to find out how things are going to go.”

Slurping Turtle, a modern Japanese-style restaurant on Liberty known for its noodles and sushi, also has reopened to the public for dine-in. 

Anna Daiwin, a server at Slurping Turtle, said she felt comfortable working at the restaurant after reopening to customers. 

“I do feel that we are taking proper protocols,” Daiwin said. “Everything we’ve been doing is for our safety and for our customers’ safety.”

Daiwin said she was grateful to still have a job during this time.

“The good thing to me is still having a job and being employed because I know a lot of people that lost their jobs permanently over the pandemic,” Daiwin said.

LSA junior Claire Chen has been working at Chatime over the summer. Though Whitmer lifted the stay-at-home order, the boba tea place on Maynard Street has not fully opened and is still only accepting online drink orders and contactless payment. 

Chen said Chatime’s payment procedures made her feel safe working through the pandemic. 

“In the beginning, I wasn’t too comfortable (working) just because I wanted to keep my family safe,” Chen said. “The one thing that I felt I was safe working at Chatime was that we had a contactless payment set-up, so no one outside would be allowed to come inside, and it’ll be always done with something outside and we would just hand the drinks out on the table. That’s what made me feel really safe about it and also my family, so that’s what made me want to work.” 

Alum Tate Aronstein recently moved back to Ann Arbor. She expressed her thoughts on people’s health and safety and on businesses reopening during COVID-19.

“I think that people should be able to judge for themselves what level of risk they’re willing to accept, and if people want to go out to restaurants,” Aronstein said.  “I think it’s great that they’re available. Just because in order for businesses to be able to stay alive, I think that they need to at least give people the option to go out and eat, so having that to be an available option is a good thing.”

Aronstein also said seeing businesses reopening has felt almost normal. 

“It’s been pretty exciting getting to see more life around downtown,” Aronstein said. “My friends and I have gotten to eat out a few times, for the first time, in a really long time. It’s just been a nice return to a somewhat normal scene and to hang out with people and be out and about in the city.”

Daily staff reporter Ann Yu can be reached at anncyu@umich.edu.