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'I feel hopeless, I feel desperate.' Michigan restaurant owners discuss plan to defy state orders if lockdown is extended

Posted at 9:04 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 21:04:34-05

WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Thousands of owners and employees at local restaurants and bars could find out as early as Tuesday if they can reopen against the statewide COVID lockdown orders.

RELATED: Ruling possible Tuesday that could open up Michigan restaurants & bars

Federal Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo heard arguments for and against it on Monday. And before the ruling, he urged the attorneys for the bars and restaurants to submit a brief about another pending case over the state's far-reaching authority.

The three-week pause is set to expire a week from Tuesday, but is expected to be extended through Christmas and New Years.

Joe Vicari owns 23 restaurants and has close to 1,000 employees. He's expecting the current lockdown order to be extended through Christmas and New Years and says, "I feel hopeless, I feel desperate."

December is the busiest month for bars and restaurants when they can get ahead and have a positive cash flow to start a new year.

During the first lockdowns, they had millions in PPP federal assistance and grants to small businesses. Vicari says that's not available now for his employees.

"How does someone feed their family, pay their utilities, pay their rent, pay their car payments," he questioned. "You just can't do it."

And for the owners of these businesses, Vicari added, "we have mortgage payments, we have utility payments, we have Michigan Sales Tax we have to pay."

After the first lockdown was lifted in June, restaurants and bars could have dine-in service at 50 percent capacity. Vicari recently invited fellow business owners to discuss their options before it's too late and they go under, adding that they can't make it with carry-out only.

The state argued Monday morning, that bars and restaurants are the fifth largest spreader of COVID-19, with 54 recorded outbreaks. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is disputing those state numbers.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.