For Crunchy’s and The Peanut Barrel, Fall Brings Apprehension, Optimism

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Elke Schrenk for ELi

The front patio of Peanut Barrel

Joe Bell knows how important game days for Michigan State football are. For his restaurant, The Peanut Barrel, every time the Spartans play in East Lansing, the tables are packed, both inside and out. And it’s been that way since The Peanut Barrel opened in 1974.

But now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he’s anticipating potentially losing more than half their usual sales this fall due to the once-canceled, now reinstated MSU football season — the Spartans open against Rutgers at home at noon on Oct. 24 — and the university’s decision to utilize mostly online instruction for undergraduates.

He’s well aware of the reality he faces: Compared to a usual fall, this season will likely hold big losses for his restaurant. 

But right now, his plan is to take it one day at a time.

“[We’re] trying to learn as much as we can each day, and then trying to apply that to the following day. And then the following week,” Bell said.

For his staff,  a typical day now consists of reporting a health form and taking their temperature before starting their shift. Other changes Bell has made include using a touchless menu, sanitizing frequently, and requiring masks for anyone who is not seated. 

“Other than that, it’s still a lot the same,” said Bell.

Despite the fact that his restaurant may lose a majority of its usual sales this fall, Bell supports the decisions of local health officials and the state government. Working within those regulations, Bell’s goal is to keep his staff “healthy and working.” 

Another change this fall has been the lack of undergrad students returning to MSU. On Aug. 17, 2020, the university cancelled in-person undergraduate instruction telling students to stay home, if they could, while attending classes online.

Although students broadly are not staying in dorms this semester, Bell is encouraged by the many students renting out apartments in East Lansing

“Not having students in the way that we are accustomed to is different. And I think that if today is any indication,” Bell said, referencing a lively crowd at his restaurant, “I think we might be okay.”

A short way down Grand River Ave., Crunchy’s owner Michael Krueger said that no game days would have impacted business greatly. On an average Saturday, lines to get in the restaurant could start as early as 9:30am and last all day. 

“They were really good days,” Krueger said of usual game days, when his restaurant would be at full capacity as opposed to the 50 percent it’s at now. “They kind of helped run us through the rest of the fall and hopefully through the winter months.”

Krueger feels apprehensive about this fall. He says that all the restaurant can do for now is operate within the guidelines they have been given because they “can’t afford to close.”

“So even if we’re losing money every month,” Krueger said, “ We gotta figure out a way to weather the storm.”

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