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Local restaurants feel the pinch after state orders them to stop dine-in service

Efforts to flatten the curve are crushing some businesses

KENTWOOD, Mich. — This week, Michigan joined several other states and ordered businesses such as bars and restaurants to halt dine-in service. It's all in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Health officials say social distancing is necessary to flatten the curve. However, the move is crushing businesses like YoChef's Catering, in Kentwood.

"I was heartsick coming into today --  not knowing whether I should open," says owner Joseff VanHorn.

VanHorn, has been making food for West Michigan for decades. Late last year, in November, he opened a cafe near 44th and Division Avenue. It's quaint and intimate place for people to break bread together.

"We have been growing. We've been doing nice things with the cafe," says VanHorn. "It's become a new favorite breakfast spot and lunch spot.  Obviously, times have changed."

RELATED: YoChef's owner opens new cafe in Kentwood

RELATED: Occupancy at Kent County restaurants, gyms and venues limited to 50%

Indeed they have. And now, VanHorn says the future of the cafe is up in the air. 

"We don't know what to do from one moment to the next," he says, emotionally. "I'm trying not to watch the news, but I'm stuck to the screen."

Each week VanHorn has faced new realities and new struggles related to the pandemic.

First, Governor Whitmer ordered restaurants to reduce capacity by 50%. Now, they must close their doors to the public altogether - except for take-out and delivery. As a result, empty tables, now, sit in the dining space that was recently full of hungry and happy diners. 

"I'm gut punched.  Yeah, I mean I'm gut punched. I feel like I don't know what to do. If I didn't have my faith I think I do have my head buried in the sand," he says. "We don't know what to do from one moment to the next."

To make matters worse, the onslaught of event cancellations has hurt the catering side of business. 

"90% of my businesses is catering. Wiped it out... it just totally wiped it out. And, it's kind of tough. You know, I don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. My heart is hurting just talking about it."

His heart breaks not just for himself, but for others impacted by the impact of social distancing efforts.

"I have other friends in the business that catering companies and they've had events have canceled, which it hurts. It hurts not only us, as small businesses, but our employees as well," he says. "There's some incentive for employees, but there's nothing for the small businessman. We need to survive we got to pay our bills," he says. "I just have to be ready and prepared for what's next to come."

Meanwhile, he says, he is taking every precaution to sanitize everything.  

"Please trust that we have your best interests at heart and that we're going to do everything we can to make sure that you're safe," he says. "And with the catering, I want them to know that they can call us and we can bring it out. It can be all disposable. The best thing to do is let one of my servers do it for you in single use utensils and gloves and then not have your employees have to touch anything."

VanHorn says his faith is stronger than his fear, so he is not giving up.

"That's why I showed up today, you know, instead of like just closing the stay at home and sulking," he said.

And, he prays they will somehow make it through this. 

I have to fight for it. I'm not going to just lay down and die," says VanHorn.

YoChef's Cafe is located at 34 44th Street SE in Kentwood. VanHorn says carry out customers can order and pay online. He says they'll even bring the food up to the car, so customers don't have to get out.

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