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Mid-Michigan bars react to East Lansing outbreak linked to shoulder-to-shoulder crowds

(WJRT)
Published: Jun. 27, 2020 at 11:44 PM EDT
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As the number of COVID cases linked to an East Lansing bar continues to grow, Mid-Michigan bars are reacting to what they’re seeing and hoping to stave off an outbreak of their own.

“There have been a lot of different changes. It’s really a different atmosphere.”

Strange days behind the bar for Tim Murlick.

“I want to be back to normal, you know,” related Murlick. “There is a new normal now, but I want to be back to where we were and so, we’ve got to do everything we can.”

Just as evident as the memorabilia hanging from the walls of his 6-year-old Carrollton sports bar, Merl’s Tavern, are carefully laminated hallmarks of the new normal.

“We’ve gone down to 50 percent capacity,” began Murlick, describing some of the precautions his staff has implemented. “We’ve got the tables six feet apart… every time someone touches the menu or pen, we put them over there and when we get a chance, clean them off and reuse them.”

Murlick has a reason to be concerned; As of Saturday, the Ingham County Health Department reports 85 cases have now been linked to shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at Harper’s, an East Lansing bar, which is now under a temporary shutdown.

“We’ve actually started to close early because we’ve seen what happened in Lansing,” explained Murlick. “It’s hard to control after midnight… you don’t want to take any chances.”

It’s the same cautionary tale playing out in Grand Rapids and environs, where West Michigan media confirms a handful of bars had to again close their doors after staff members contracted the virus.

Back in Carrollton, patrons will find hand sanitizing stations located throughout the building, in addition to Plexiglas barriers in several key spots. Signs of on-the-spot innovation, as Murlick pointed out, are evident even in the bathrooms. Touchless doors patrons can open with their shoes.

“I have a lot of friends who work at the hospital,” related Murlick. “It’s not a farce. You see a lot of bad things in there. You just have to follow procedures… at least we’re back in business.”

Expecting the best but planning for the worse and hoping it’s enough to keep that open sign on.