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Two Detroit Area Restaurants Choose Transparency When Closing As a COVID-19 Precaution

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Imperial in Ferndale and Grey Ghost in Brush Park both opted to temporarily close for cleaning over the weekend

The bar at Grey Ghost is concrete with black metal stools and pendant lights.
Grey Ghost temporarily closed for cleaning after an employee that had zero contact with customers later tested positive for COVID-19.
Michelle and Chris Gerard

Two Detroit-area restaurants temporarily closed over the weekend for cleaning after coming into contact with individuals who later tested positive for COVID-19. Grey Ghost in Brush Park and Imperial in Ferndale are both scheduled to reopen on Monday, June 29 after brief closures to deep clean.

Jill Giacomino, a representative for Grey Ghost, tells Eater that the restaurant management decided to close Friday after only one day of dine-in service “out of an abundance of caution” after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

That staff member had attended a restaurant meeting earlier in the week but had not had any contact with guests. Following the staff meeting, the worker became aware that they may have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was told to stay home, self-quarantine, and seek out testing. They later tested positive, although they were asymptomatic. Grey Ghost closed Friday and immediately arranged to have all staff members tested over the weekend. “They’ve all come through and we haven’t had any other positive [tests],” Giacomino says.

In the case of Imperial, the restaurant received an anonymous call on Friday, June 26 from a customer stating that they had tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after dining at the restaurant on the afternoon of Thursday, June 25. That individual did not specify the exact times they were at the restaurant and a representative for Imperial’s parent restaurant group Working Class Outlaws says that the company has not been able to confirm the customer’s statement with the health department

Imperial temporarily closed and hired a professional cleaning service to sanitize and disinfect the entire restaurant. Staff were notified in compliance with state executive orders requiring businesses to inform employees and vendors. The restaurant didn’t require employees to get tested due to their limited contact with guests, but did recommend that anyone who felt concerned get tested. The group declined to comment further due to concerns over the public’s reaction.

The temporary closures demonstrate one of the new challenges for businesses operating in the pandemic. As more employees and customers enter restaurants and bars, there’s more potential for people to come in contact with others and unknowingly spread the virus. That results in added stress and costs for businesses that trying to recover from three months of dine-in closure.

“We wanted to be transparent because this is going to happen to other restaurants,” Giacomino told Eater about the importance of notifying customers about the temporary closure.

The pandemic has impacted Grey Ghost’s business “tremendously,” Giacomino says, and future, repeat closures will hinder any sort of economic recovery. She said that around 150 reservations were canceled over the weekend due to the closure. (The restaurant is also continuing to offer carryout service.) That meant that some items that were prepped for the weekend are now having to get re-prepped today at the kitchen in order for Grey Ghost to resume service this week. It also means a loss of potential earnings for employees. “Luckily it was only a few days [of closure],” Giacomino says. “We just decided to be 100 percent honest, because I think that’s what people needed to hear.” She adds: “Ultimately, it was the best thing to do for the health and safety of our staff and guests.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Michigan guidelines for COVID-19 recommend people stay home when sick, leave least six feet of space between themselves and others, wash hands frequently, and wear a mask securely over nose and your mouth; these recommendations are important all the time when interacting with people outside of your household, but especially when patronizing businesses or going to work. If customers want to support businesses and workers, it’s vital that they do their part in helping slow the spread of the virus to others. Some states and municipalities in recent days have rolled back reopenings of bars in particular due to spikes in COVID-19 cases. That could be devastating for some businesses, if it were to happen in Michigan.

A recent outbreak tied Michigan bar, Harper’s in East Lansing, illustrates the potentially dire consequences when people do not follow guidelines for mask use and social distancing. At least 85 new cases across the state are now connected to the bar including several from a satellite outbreak in Grosse Pointe nearly 100 miles away. Quick action, like closing for cleaning and making sure people are informed and taking appropriate precautions can help slow the spread.

Meanwhile, the city of Detroit is cracking down on businesses that aren’t complying with state guidelines. Mayor Mike Duggan threatened to close any establishments that ignore warnings from the health department in a press conference on Thursday, June 25. The city’s chief public health officer Denise Fair issued an order on Friday closing the Monroe Block of Greektown to street traffic on weekends in an effort to limit crowds and improve social distancing in the popular nightclub, bar, and restaurant district.

Detroit is currently offering free, rapid testing to restaurant and bar employees. Appointments can be made by calling 313-251-4488 and rescheduled every two weeks.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at detroit@eater.com.

How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Detroit Food and Beverage Industry [ED]
Detroit Issues Warning to Restaurants, Bars, and Nightclubs: Follow State COVID-19 Rules [ED]
A Running List of Detroit Restaurants and Bars Partially Reopening for Dine-In Service [ED]

Woodward Imperial

22828 Woodward Avenue, Ferndale, MI 48220

Grey Ghost

47 E Watson Street, , MI 48201 (313) 262-6534 Visit Website

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