Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.
Since March, the only retailers open for normal business operations in Northwest Indiana during the coronavirus pandemic are those selling essentials of life, such as grocery stores, home improvement stores, and big-box stores that carry groceries.
All others have had to switch to curbside pickup, delivery or online sales.
But that's about to change, as soon as Monday.
On Friday, Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed his road map for reopening the state for business with a goal of getting back to normal by Independence Day. The governor said the openings, except for religious services, won't take effect in Lake and Marion counties until May 11, and Cass County until May 18, since those counties lead Indiana for COVID-19 cases.
Then, beginning May 11 nearly everywhere in the state, and May 18 in Lake and Marion counties, restaurants and bars that serve food can resume dine-in service at 50% of capacity; and personal services businesses, such as hair salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors, can reopen by appointment only, provided social distancing and other safety measures are followed, according to the governor's order.
Bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, cultural venues and other businesses will remain closed at that time.
Local authorities also can choose to leave stricter restrictions in place, Holcomb said. Michigan City for instance is keeping its stay-at-home order in effect through at least May 7, and Mayor Duane Perry will weigh whether to extend it.
Businesses are not required to immediately reopen if they don't yet feel comfortable doing so.
Some restaurants like Ciao Bella, White Rhino and El Salto plan to reopen as soon as they can. Ciao Bella, which has been offering DIY pizza and pasta kits as well as normal menu items to-go, has ordered face masks with its logo, put in hand sanitizer stations by the front door and hired a contractor to do a deep clean.
Other restaurants, including Doc’s Smokehouse, Sophia’s House of Pancakes and Warsaw Inn, are hesitant to open dining right away and may continue to offer just takeout and delivery at first.
Under the governor's plan, retail stores and malls can return to 75% capacity on May 24, with food courts and other indoor common areas operating at 50% capacity. Restaurants must remain at 50% capacity and gyms must remain closed.
By June 14, stores and malls can return to full capacity with social distancing, employee screening and a recommendation employees wear face masks. Restaurants can operate at 75% capacity with bars at 50% capacity. Museums and entertainment venues can open at 50% capacity.
As of July 4, stores, malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, barber shops, salons, and other restaurants across the state of Indiana can return to full capacity.
In the meantime, more restaurants in Northwest Indiana have reopened for curbside pickup and delivery as the global pandemic has dragged on. Giovanni's Restaurant in Munster started curbside no-contact pickup with a limited menu on Friday, taking orders at 219-836-6220 between 2 and 8 p.m. daily.
Jelly Pancake House just reopened its Dyer location, which can be reached at 219-865-3200, for curbside pickup, takeout and delivery.
J's Breakfast Club in Gary reopened for carryout, curbside and delivery service from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. The restaurant, which can be reached at 219-455-6959, is offering daily specials like salmon croquette patties, fried chicken, smothered pork chops and Fish Fridays.
Mr. Greek Gyros in Merrillville is taking to-go orders at mrgreekgyros.net or 219-757-5777.
Greenbush Brewing in southwest Michigan is looking to opening its annex up for takeout once it comes up with safety protocols it's satisfied with.
Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville told its social media followers to stay tuned for an announcement soon about curbside pickup.
For a longer list of open businesses across the Calumet Region, visit nwi.com/weareopen.
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