Clawson couple fights to keep new restaurant dream alive during COVID-19

It's a Tuesday evening in downtown Clawson and business is chugging along at the new Pumachug Gastro Pub at 14 Mile and Main.

Owners Tyler and Andrea Williams, who live in Clawson, started on this pre-quarantine and opened only a month and a half ago in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is our first restaurant. This is actually the first time either of us has worked in a restaurant which is kind of crazy but it's been a passion project for us," said Tyler.

The first-time restaurant owners are also soon to be first-time parents. And safety for everybody, from themselves to their workers to their customers, is the top priority. But opening a new restaurant with such limited capacity and so many safety protocols - plus keeping customers happy - has been a lot to juggle.

"It's been the hardest thing we've ever done in our lives. By far. We knew it was going to be hard; we didn't know it was going to be this hard," said Tyler.

It was just last month that the National Restaurant Association revealed one in six restaurants - or 100,000 of them - had closed long term or permanently.

"It's scary," said Tyler.

And as COVID cases rise overseas and here at home, restaurants as far away as France and Italy are locking down once again, while restaurants as close as Chicago are once again being closed for dine-in service.

"I don't understand how restaurants survive without the dine-in business," Tyler said. "We want you to enjoy the food. We've put a lot of effort into the ambiance, into the food, into the beer selection."

The cozy atmosphere is what they want their customers to experience but they know they have to have carry out and delivery to survive COVID, especially as it gets colder.

The restaurant's name Pumachug comes from the sounds coming from the back corner in the 1800s when both a sawmill and a cider mill chugged away. The couple is just hopeful their passion project can keep doing the same.

"It feels like we have actually created something really special here for Clawson, for metro Detroit and this area," Andrea said.

"This is about creating something for the community. This is about doing your part to change a small piece of your world," Tyler said.

The Williams just ask that all of us keep supporting the small business in our communities.