GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As restaurants get ready to reopen their dining rooms on Monday, Westside Social has taken the latest shutdown to remodel so it’s better positioned to function under tight state restrictions.
“People think I’m a genius or I’m an idiot because you’re putting an expansion in in the middle of a pandemic,” Joe DiLeonardo, owner of Westside Social on Lake Michigan Drive in Grand Rapids, told News 8 Friday. “But hey, I’ve been doing this my whole life, had a gut (feeling) and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
He sunk $150,000 into widening his dining room to fix seven more tables and turning every window in to a garage-style door to create better airflow. The project is expected to be completed Feb. 12.
“We’ll see where the weather is,” DiLeonardo said. “We might even open the (garage) doors every once in a while, just to make people that much more comfortable.”
At 25% capacity, most of his 45-person team will return. But staffing has become its own challenge.
“I’ll be honest with you: It’s hard to get help right now,” DiLeonardo said. “People have kind of moved on to different professions. They can’t wait around. So it gives us a chance to build our staff back up to 100%.”
Westside Social will have 90-minute limits for those dining inside.
The owner said that in the absence of concrete guidance, restaurants will largely have to govern themselves.
“It’s hard because you can’t go by tables, you got to go by heads — how many people are in the building,” DiLeonardo said. “So we’re just going to do our best and going to spread everything out 6 to 8 feet and off we go.”