COVID-19 uncertainties hurting metro Detroit restaurants as state cases spike

Honcho Latin Street Food in Clarkston back open for business, but like many restaurants the pandemic is causing a good deal of uncertainty. The restaurant closed Thursday after one of its staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

The steady rise in cases throughout the state has Honcho co-owner Curt Cattalo uneasy.

"We knew that this time was coming, we are not surprised it is happening now, but it is concerning," said Curt Catallo, Union Joints. "Not just for us, but for our ability to protect our guests and our ability to keep our 700 people working.

Catallo said that with a change of weather, the colder temperatures cuts down on the outdoor dining space.

 "You can only put so many people in a (heated) igloo," he said.

The state health department recorded its highest daily COVID-19 count Friday with more than 8,500 new cases.

The spread of the virus is closing restaurants as workers get infected. One-Eyed Betty's in Ferndale is temporarily closed after one of its staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Detroit Fleat Food Truck is closed this weekend for the same reason. 

Green Dot Stables in Detroit won't reopen until next Friday.

"Restaurants are so different than other industries," said Christine Driscoll, Green Dot Stables. "We work so closely together, it is one of those gut (feeling) calls, right? We are just taking every precaution in this case. We're saying let's just wait until Friday, that will be 14 days since that person was in the building last and we can say confidently that there has been a full quarantine for everyone."

The pandemic has done a number on small businesses. Some began to regain their footing during the summer, but the spread of the virus could take them back to square one.

Catallo says support from customers may make all the difference in businesses staying afloat.

Curt Catallo, co-owner of Honcho Latin Street Food in Clarkston.

"When they say let's get a carryout, let's go curbside and get it, they have no idea how important that is," he said. "When they leave a juicy tip on the credit card slip, they have no idea how important that is. It has never mattered more than now.

"That is true of every independent restaurant, they need you more than ever."

Some long months are ahead as the pandemic coincides with the flu season. Catallo says he believes that restaurants will be willing to shelter in place as long as there is some extra assistance in the form of a kicker for unemployment assistance - that way their employees are not left in a lurch when and if things get really slow.