Great Lakes Coffee indefinitely shuts down Midtown Detroit location due to COVID-19 outbreak among staff

Jan 10, 2022 at 5:13 pm
click to enlarge Midtown Detroit's Great Lakes Coffee. - Lee DeVito
Lee DeVito
Midtown Detroit's Great Lakes Coffee.

A COVID-19 outbreak at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. in Midtown Detroit has caused the shop to close indefinitely. The news came abruptly to workers at the shop at 3965 Woodward Avenue, who had been in a back and forth battle with company owners about COVID-19 protocols.

A barista who spoke to the Metro Times on the condition of anonymity says that by Thursday of last week, about nine out of 15 employees were out with COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus.

The highly contagious omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is sweeping across Michigan. Over the past week, the state has reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

With no clear communication from management on what to do, the remaining employees sent an email requesting hazard pay and for the restaurant to be temporarily closed until they could get tested. The barista says their direct manager had also tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was not working at the time.

“This has forced the remaining workers to over extend themselves; having to cover multiple shifts, pick up more duties, and deal with an increased amount of stress,” an email obtained by the Metro Times reads. “Until all of the remaining workers obtain a negative PCR COVID test, we will not be returning to work.”

In the email chain, the company responded by saying they could not honor the employees’ requests and declining to show up to work the following day would be formally accepted as a resignation from Great Lakes Coffee.

“Although we do empathize with and understand your concerns, we have been extremely vigilant in following the guidance of the CDC,” the email reads. “Nonetheless, to provide an additional measure of safety, we have already procured rapid COVID tests that will be made available to each of you should you need them.”

The company did later agree to close down the shop over the weekend so the employees could get tested, but the barista says it wasn’t enough time with testing centers being booked up and at-home tests being sold out at many local pharmacies.

“We asked them to limit the number of people sitting at the bar, to give us hazard pay, and wait for us to get negative test results back,” she says. “Our handwashing sink has also been broken for months and on top of working in a high-traffic area, a lot of our clientele is from the hospital. We are working the front lines for this company, and we should be compensated for that.”

Ultimately, the shop decided to close indefinitely on Sunday. A sign posted on the windows says, “Due to unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19, we are unable to open for the time being. This closing is TEMPORARY and we implore your patience during this difficult time. We will re-open for your ongoing patronage and loyalty to our business.”

click to enlarge A sign posted on Great Lakes Coffee's windows says it's closed indefinitely. - Lee DeVito
Lee DeVito
A sign posted on Great Lakes Coffee's windows says it's closed indefinitely.

Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. president and founder Greg Miracle told Metro Times in an email that the closing was to ensure employee safety in response to fears expressed by staff members.

“Great Lakes Coffee has followed all CDC protocols in its business operations and in managing this outbreak, and has provided access to free COVID rapid tests for its staff to prevent further exposures,” he said. “Great Lakes Coffee looks forward to reopening its popular ‘flagship’ Midtown café when it is determined to be safe and appropriate to do so.”

Staff members are concerned whether they will still have a job when the shop reopens, however.

“We didn’t get the impression they were closing for our well-being,” the barista says. “All of the employees are in very close communication and the majority of the consensus is that we want to fight this. We aren’t giving up on our jobs, we just want respect.”

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