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E.G. Nicks Grill and Tavern in Lapeer closes dine-in service after warning

Michigan Liquor Control Commission issues warning, changing plans to stay open
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 7:45 PM EST
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LAPEER, Mich. (WJRT) - A group of restaurants in Lapeer planned to defy the Michigan order to close dine-in service, but they reversed course after receiving a warning from the state.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an epidemic order, which took effect on Nov. 18, requiring restaurants to close their dining rooms as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They can remain open for carryout or drive-through service, however.

Woodchips BBQ in Lapeer planned to keep its dining room open to help keep employees on the job. Other Lapeer restaurants like E.G. Nicks Grill and Tavern said they would follow the lead and keep their dining rooms open, as well.

“We decided to try and stay open because I have 60 employees and I can only employ maybe half of them,” said Jeff Ryeson, who owns E.G. Nicks. “So they’re going to live off of unemployment, which won’t sustain their lifestyles.”

But the plan to stay open wouldn’t last long. Ryeson received a direct call from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

“They gave me a warning and also said during this time they’re doing emergency suspension, so that means they can just come in and take your license. And if they do, there’s no telling how long you’ll lose it for and how much money it’ll cost you to get it back,” Ryeson said.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services echoed a similar message, saying local law enforcement and health departments are tasked with enforcing the statewide epidemic orders. The statement reads:

“To save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting indoor gatherings where the virus can spread, the MDHHS order prohibits food service establishments from offering indoor dining. Generally speaking, as with other orders, local law enforcement and local health departments are authorized to enforce the department’s emergency orders. We appreciate their partnership in protecting Michiganders during this pandemic.”

Ryeson said the risk for his business to keep the dining room open outweighs the benefits.

“I understand and they have to do their job too,” he said. “My conversation was very cordial with them and I understand the ramifications and it’s just not worth it to have my license pulled, because then it defeats my whole purpose of trying to be open and help my staff.”

E.G. Nicks is offering takeout service while its dining room remains closed. The statewide epidemic order currently is scheduled to end on Dec. 9 and restaurants may be allowed to resume normal operations then unless it gets extended.

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