BY BTL STAFF
Although Como’s restaurant in downtown Ferndale was temporarily closed on Sept. 21 by the Oakland County Health Division, they will be working hard to make changes.
Owner George Grego told The Detroit Free Press on Sept. 23 that he hopes to re-open Como’s on the corner of Nine Mile and Woodward in three to five weeks with a renovated dining room and kitchen, a properly trained staff and a new menu that’s “fresh, lighter and locally sourced.”
This “facelift” follows a decision by the Food Service Appeal Board to temporarily revoke the restaurant’s business license.
“The law requires us to inspect restaurants minimally twice per year,” said George Miller, director of the OCHD. “Unfortunately for Como’s we’ve had quite a number of contacts with them between 2013 and 2016.”
Miller told The Detroit Free Press that multiple violations stemmed from concerns over the potential spread of food-borne illness, citing issues such as cross-contamination of food, improper personal hygiene among staff and not properly marking dates on food items, among other issues. The restaurant, known for its outdoor patio and late-night hours, also had its liquor license temporarily suspended in 2015 for two violations of state liquor law.
Como’s, which was renovated most recently in 1997, has been closed before as a result of fires, a flood, and the Northeast power blackout of 2003, but Grego said this was the first time the restaurant had been closed by the OCHD since it opened in 1961 by his parents, George and Sicilia Grego.
The restaurant has built a reputation for being a strong activist for the LGBT community. Grego’s family was known for telling customers back then to “hit the road” when they refused to be waited on by LGBT employees.
“Way before it ever became fashionable or even permissible to admit LGBT people into bars and restaurants, Como’s was welcoming and supportive,” said Craig Covey, former Ferndale mayor, who frequented the restaurant in the ’80s and ’90s for community meetings and socializing with other LGBT political activists.
As an establishment that has provided employment for hundreds of young people, including LGBT young people, it has been one of Covey’s favorite hangouts for the past 30 years.
“Como’s was always there for us. They said yes to every event and fundraiser, including the Pride festivals, the pub crawls, the blues festivals, and on and on,” Covey said. “I estimate that just in my fundraising for local LGBT and AIDS charities, Como’s donated in excess of $15,000 over the decades.”
What People are Saying on Facebook
Despite the overwhelmingly negative public comments shared on social media since the news broke, several supporters of Como’s have posted they are confident this is just a bump in the road for one of the first LGBT-friendly establishments that has made a positive impact in the area.
Debra Young said, “Looking forward to the grand reopening. Love Sicilia.”
Gary Bredow said, “I love Como’s, and George is a great guy. They’ll get the issues fixed and reopen.”
Dora Heski said, “I completely love your pizza and am happy to hear you are moving forward, and we can continue enjoying the decor, ambience, and food that I can’t stop eating.”
Julio Antonio Amill said, “Best wishes Sicilia. Can’t wait to see the new digs.”
For more information about Como’s, visit their website. Between The Lines will continue to report on this story. Watch for online updates.