Niles café defies MDHHS order, reopens dining room

Published 10:34 am Saturday, December 12, 2020

State representatives, Stand Up Michigan, residents dined in to support

NILES — On Saturday morning, the atmosphere in the Rise-n-Shine Café, 2616 Detroit Road, Niles, was a bustling morning café. Diners were sat at tables, coffee cups topped off and plated meals filled with eggs, bacon and pancakes headed to tables full of hungry customers. There was a line in the entryway and just outside the door of diners waiting to be seated.

This scene may sound like a typical Saturday morning in America, except Rise-n-Shine Café is located in Michigan, where the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended a pandemic order on Monday. The diners Saturday morning included Brad Paquette (R), Michigan state representative for the 78th district, Steve Carra (R), incoming Michigan state representative for the 59th district, and Tammy Clark, executive director for Stand Up Michigan.

Clark and Carra made the Rise-n-Shine Café their second stop on a nine-stop day from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. encouraging restaurants to defy the MDHHS orders and open their doors to diners.

The order, originally implemented for three weeks, was announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an address on Nov. 15, and was extended Monday to continue through Dec. 20 on Monday. The order kept dine-in and bar services, gatherings, movie theaters, bowling alleys, group fitness classes and more closed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases across the state.

Owner of Rise-n-Shine Café Angel Robison was busy serving customers and having quick conversations through the morning.

“Most of these people are our regulars,” Robison said.

Robison said the café has 10 employees, and with closing the dining room down again, the financial situation had become dire.

“Everybody has families. Everybody has kids. It’s Christmas. They have bills to pay,” Robison said.

At about 7:30 p.m. Friday evening, the café announced on its Facebook page it would defy the MDHHS mandate an reopen Saturday morning.

“We can no longer afford to only do our carryout,” the post read. “We will continue to do our part with 50 percent capacity and social distancing. Our employees can’t live off of unemployment. Our employees have families and bills. I understand not everyone will agree and I’m sorry to anyone who believe I’m wrong. We are trying to do the right thing. I’m just trying to keep my business and employees afloat. Please don’t feel you should come in if you’re not comfortable. We will continue to do curbside. Please keep our families in your prayers. It has been a difficult year for everyone and we are making hard decisions not only for our family but our employees also. Thank you”

By Saturday morning, the post had more than 260 shares, more than 90 comments and more than 360 reactions.

Robison and her family bought the café a year and nine months ago. She remembers the establishment being a restaurant for around 50 years.

“We were doing great until the shutdowns,” she said.

Robison said she was a little worried to reopen, but the staff was implementing some safety protocols.

“We are still social distancing. We are still wiping everything down,” Robison said.

Paquette, Carra and Clark sat together at the café’s bar dining and spoke with diners and owners. Clark said Carra had committed to eating a plated meal at each stop along the way.

“We know these mandates and these orders are completely unconstitutional,” Clark said. “It is overreach in the worst way. So, we are encouraging [restaurant owners] to practice civil disobedience, which is totally the American way to handle tyranny.”

Clark said Stand Up Michigan was connecting business owners struggling to weather COVID-19 mandates and shut downs with Constitutional law attorneys to help fight on their behalf. Businesses found defying MDHHS orders are subject to fines.

“Restaurants have done a better job than anybody,” Clark said. “Today, here, nobody is worried about it. Restaurants have on a very good job. They have plexiglass. There are spaced out tables, and they’ve required face masks.”

For Carra, he took part in the day to bring awareness to what business owners are facing.

“We are standing up and supporting businesses around the state who understand that it’s their right if they want to come [indoors to dine],” Carra said. “Nobody’s arms are twisted or forced to come in. These people are consenting people who are dining in. That’s America.”

Paquette joined Carra and Clark.

“Having balance and advocating for balance isn’t a radical thing,” Paquette said. “That is what all these people are here for. I also think that in this time of isolation, it is something that has taken a toll on everybody’s mental health. Adding some fellowship and coming together is very, very important, especially during these times in the cloudy and dark months.”

As they finished up their breakfasts, as 8:30 arrived and Carra and Clark prepared to be on their way for their next stop, Bullseye in Three Rivers, they met with, shook hands and spoke with diners who had come out in support of Rise-n-Shine Café.

“This is a desperate situation,” Clark said. “This is not just people being belligerent. It’s very un-American to not allow people to make a living and earn a wage. Our fundamental right to feed our families. That’s what this is all about.”