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What to expect as local restaurants prepare to reopen

During your next visit, expect to see glass dividers, everyone wearing masks, bars blocked off, tables spread out and touchless faucets.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Starting Friday, restaurants and bars can reopen in northern Michigan. As the state continues to see progress, it’s just a matter of time before people in West Michigan can dine-in too, and restaurants are already preparing. 

But even with these positive signs, the fate of your favorite restaurant is probably still up in the air. Owners are getting creative to try and survive.

A few favorites in Grand Rapids include Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well, and now the fast, casual Jimmy Berger’s restaurant. Jimmy Berger’s used to be the Grove, which was already expensive, and in a pandemic would’ve become even pricier. 

Essence Restaurant Group owns all three, and has spent weeks putting together a phased approach to reopening. 

During your next visit, expect to see glass dividers, everyone wearing masks, bars blocked off, tables spread out and touchless faucets. They’re also moving to a reservation-only system at Bistro Bella Vita and The Green Well, and you’ll have to wait outside.

Essence managing partner James Berg said the biggest challenge is yet to come.

“You're going to see in the next three to six months I think a very, unfortunately, devastating impact to closures of multiple independent restaurants and a shift in the overall dining,” Berg said. “It's not all going to be to-go and carry-out... Once restaurants open people are going to want to go out to some degree, carry-out what will be a bigger part of it, but it won't be the only part of it.”

The restaurant group won't be in a rush, planning to reopen one restaurant at a time, next month. Bistro will open last since it’s the biggest. Essence is also planning to wait until late June and July to introduce 50 percent capacity.

“We feel pretty confident that we have a good plan, and we're capitalized where we can weather the storm and get through this,” Berg said. 

Obviously this is uncharted territory, and some prices might go up, and people might notice missing items on the menu. 

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