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Michigan restaurant association predicts doom with 3-week pause of dine-in service

Association expects 250,000 layoffs ‘with no federal funds and an exhausted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund’
Restaurants back down to 50 due to COVID 19 spikes around the state.
Restaurants back down to 50 due to COVID 19 spikes around the state.(WAGM)
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 12:35 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association is bracing for “catastrophic economic fallout” from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, which close dine-in service for another three weeks.

Whitmer announced a pause of dine-in service and several other restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan. Drive-through and carryout service will be allowed, however.

The restrictions take effect on Wednesday for three weeks, which include the Thanksgiving holiday.

The restaurant association says the economic fallout for restaurants around the state will be worse than the COVID-19 toll of leaving them open. Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow expects about 250,000 restaurant employees will be laid off.

“With no federal funds and an exhausted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, it is unclear where the revenue will derive to finance the influx of claims,” he said.

Winslow pointed out there is no financial safety net for small businesses this time. A prolonged closure without any additional federal economic stimulus could lead to 6,000 restaurant closures statewide by next spring -- in addition to 2,000 that already closed this year.

“While this decision will absolutely lead to a catastrophic economic fallout, the human toll on restaurant owners and their employees will be dramatically worse than what (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) Director Gordon is attempting to mitigate through this Order based upon the department’s own transmission data,” Winslow said.

He said Michiganders have “an inherent and insatiable desire” to congregate eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, but the Whitmer administration’s latest restrictions take away that option “in a highly regulated, sanitized, capacity-limited and appropriately spaced setting” in restaurants.

Winslow said people instead will congregate in “super-spreader environments” in homes over the holidays, which he believes cause much more COVID-19 spread than restaurants based on state data.

He pointed out that Michigan Department of Health and Human Services figures show only five ongoing COVID-19 outbreak investigations linked to restaurants, which serve millions of people every day.

Whitmer said restaurants pose an easy environment for COVID-19 to spread in enclosed environment.

“We know when we go to restaurants that there are many, many households underneath that roof. That it is one roof, enclosed," she told ABC12. "That’s precisely the danger when there is so much COVID, and that’s why for this temporary targeted strategy to work we all have to do our part.”

Whitmer said Michigan can make progress battling COVID-19 and drive down record numbers of cases during the next three weeks if everyone practices social distancing and avoids large gatherings. If that happens, she said some of the restrictions could be lifted.

However, Whitmer cautioned that more restrictions could be added if case numbers don’t improve.

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