GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Monday, March 16, 2020 was a day the leaders from All In Hospitality had been looking forward to for a long time. It was the day they were scheduled to open Royals, a diner with a flashy red exterior at the junction of the Heritage Hills, East Hills, South Hills, and Baxter neighborhoods.
Royals did open that day. It also closed that day.
Just a few hours after welcoming their first customers, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that limited restaurants to delivery and carry-out orders only. It was a measure to curb the number of cases of a virus called COVID-19, which at the time the world knew very little about.
"Everybody was watching the news and seeing exactly which way we were going to go. I remember it, literally, like it was yesterday," said Chris Funaro who serves as All In's director of operations.
Because of the timing, the leaders at All In and everyone who has worked for Royals have fairly unique stories about the pandemic and what it takes to operate a business during a global health crisis.
"We closed and then we tried doing the takeout only thing. Then we tried doing the 25 percent and 50 percent only thing - the whole dance. And honestly, we had some great success, and we appreciate the community supporting us," Funaro said.
But after more than two years of business during one of the most trying times for businesses, operations at Royals have been put on pause. A lengthy and emotional Facebook post describes the trial and error of it all as trying to find your way in the dark over and over again.
"Our owners, Paul and Jess, definitely have a way with words, and they're very, very connected to the community. It's been such a roller coaster, honestly, for the two of them, and for all of us involved in this project," Funaro said.
Right now, the plan is to "retool, reevaluate, and re-conceptualize to help relaunch Royals later this fall/summer." Funaro said the only tease he would give about the talks going on behind closed doors is that they hope to reopen before fall sports begin.
"We're excited to be in business and we're excited that we're diligent enough to make the tough decision to say let's timeout for a second here," he said.
"We just want to say thank you to the city for supporting us and obviously to our staff for everything they've gone through," Funaro said.
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