Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association sues state over indoor dining closure

Bars and restaurants are forced to close indoor service again for three weeks beginning Wednesday
Minot restaurants adapt
Minot restaurants adapt(KFYR)
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday over the forced closure of indoor dining service statewide, which takes effect Wednesday.

The lawsuit is challenging an epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which was announced Sunday evening. Bars and restaurants are required to close indoor dining for three weeks, but can remain open for takeout and drive-through service.

“We have taken this action only after careful deliberation and as the last available option to prevent the outright devastation of restaurant operators and their hundreds of thousands of employees across the state,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the association.

He said the association, which represents restaurants, hotels and hospitality businesses in Michigan, tried to reach a compromise with state health officials to keep restaurants open with even more coronavirus restrictions in place.

The enhanced measures proposed by the association include a reduction to 25% of rated capacity indoors and a 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants.

“While our proposal would undeniably challenge an already beleaguered industry, it was presented to Director Gordon and the Executive Office of the Governor in earnest to stave off the far worse impact of outright closure,” Winslow said.

He expects the forced closure of indoor dining service will result in 250,000 layoffs just ahead of the holiday season with less of a safety net available to help. A $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit and the Paycheck Protection Program were available when restaurants closed last spring, but they aren’t available anymore.

A Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association survey showed about 40% of restaurants will close entirely without indoor dining. The association says 2,000 restaurants in Michigan already closed this year and 6,000 could go out of business by next spring if the indoor dining closure persists.

However, Winslow pointed out that the state’s restaurant industry serves millions of customers every day with a relatively low rate of COVID-19 spread. He said state health officials are tracking only eight coronavirus outbreaks tied to restaurants, which presents about 4.3% of total outbreaks.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told ABC12 in an exclusive interview on Monday that restaurants pose an easy environment for COVID-19 to spread with people from several household gathering in an 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 said. “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.”

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