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Whitmer, state officials thank most restaurants for following COVID-19 orders

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a coronavirus press conference on Jan. 6, 2021.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a coronavirus press conference on Jan. 6, 2021.(State of Michigan)
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 12:02 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan is home to thousands of restaurants, but only about four dozen have faced penalties for violating state COVID-19 restrictions.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials issued statements Monday thanking the thousands of restaurants who continue following coronavirus orders by closing their indoor dining facilities.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order requiring restaurants to close for dine-in service expires Friday. Whitmer and state health officials have not indicated whether it will be extended for a third time.

“Our bar and restaurant owners have made incredible sacrifices over the past 10 months to keep their communities safe and slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to thank those who have enacted strict safety protocols and worked around the clock to save lives,” Whitmer said.

As of Monday, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has suspended licenses for 32 bars and restaurants for violating statewide COVID-19 orders. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced fines against 13 restaurants for allowing indoor dining in December.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission plans to offer a second round of spirits buyback, in which bars and restaurants can sell back their liquor to the state temporarily. When COVID-19 restrictions end, they have 90 days to pay for the liquor again before the state repossesses it.

The program has provided $3.3 million in emergency funding for 670 establishments around Michigan.

Michigan’s $100 million economic relief package approved in December includes direct financial assistance of up to $25,000 for restaurants and direct payments to restaurant workers. Whitmer also announced an expansion of SNAP benefits in December, allowing some people to buy restaurant food with their Bridge Card.

“My administration has been working hard to secure crucial support for these businesses,” Whitmer said. “I was proud to, among other things, negotiate with the legislature to sign a bipartisan supplemental budget that provides support for small business owners like these. I will keep working around the clock on their behalf.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also praised the state’s bar and restaurant owners.

“I applaud every business owner in Michigan who has stepped up, braced themselves for the storm, and complied with Michigan’s public health emergency orders,” said Nessel. “This pandemic has brought them to their knees, but the vast majority of them have worked hard to stay open during the worst of times. Their creativity, innovation and sheer fortitude have set the gold standard for the rest of us.”

The attorney general’s office is working with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission on enforcing COVID-19 orders on 19,000 bars and restaurants with a liquor license. Commission Chairman Pat Gagliardi noted that the vast majority of liquor licensees are following orders.

“I am extremely proud of these business owners who have set an exemplary example during these tough times,” Gagliardi said. “These licensees know that having a liquor license is a privilege that comes with responsibilities; namely, protecting consumers and the general public.”

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission only suspended licenses for 15 establishments over the past seven years before the coronavirus pandemic reached the state. This year’s total of 32 suspensions alone is more than double the total since 2013.

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