Michigan organizations react to indoor dining reopening Feb. 1

Court hearing Monday morning in lawsuit against state over in-person dining ban
Posted at 10:56 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 10:56:11-05

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan organizations are reacting after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday morning that indoor dining would be able to resume as planned Feb. 1.

RELATED: WATCH: MDHHS issues order reopening indoor dining Feb. 1

Grand Rapids Chamber President and CEO Rick Baker said the move is a "positive step" but says the 25% capacity limit will not be enough for many restaurants.

"The governor's move to ease the two-month pause on indoor dining is a positive step. We need to give our small business operators and employees the chance to operate safely.

As one of the only states with an indoor dining ban, the pause has had a devastating impact on this industry and its workforce, putting many workers on unemployment and small businesses on the edge of bankruptcy with an uncertain future.

While we applaud the step forward, the 25% capacity limit will not be enough to sustain these businesses. We hope specific details are shared soon on how capacity can be increased. To help Michiganders pull together to make this step successful for our restaurants and communities, we urge the governor to establish a data-driven path to a safe and sustainable reopening."

Justin Winslow, president of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, says it's a positive but overdue step from the state.

“We welcome the governor’s decision to reopen restaurant dining on February 1 as good, if overdue news. It is now time for this administration to move aggressively towards a more comprehensive reintegration strategy, which includes prioritizing vaccination for the broader hospitality industry and establishing clear metrics for phased reopening to 100 percent capacity of indoor dining. The hospitality industry and its sizable workforce has suffered far worse than its peers from this pandemic, losing nearly 3,000 restaurants and employing 200,000 fewer workers than a year prior. It also stands to gain the most from a proficient and expedited vaccination schedule, which is why we contend that there is no more important step the governor can take to get Michigan’s economy back on track than restoring public confidence in Michiganders ability to safely dine and travel.”

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association also expressed concern about the 25% capacity limit.

“Reopening at 25 percent capacity is a start, but it’s not what we were hoping for or what our industry needs right now,” said MLBA Executive Director Scott Ellis. “Many establishments have been closed because carry-out sales weren’t enough to keep them open. We’re afraid a strict capacity limit like this will continue to keep those places closed.”

Other points of concern for the MLBA are the 100-person limit and the 10 p.m. curfew, which apply to all businesses across the board.

“One-size-fits-all restrictions like these simply don’t make sense. A breakfast diner doesn’t have a problem abiding by a night-time curfew, but an upscale dining establishment in downtown Detroit does because people don’t typically frequent those places until later in the evening,” Ellis said. “In respect to the 100-person limit, a pub and a large entertainment center are treated the same way under these restrictions despite the obvious size difference. If an establishment is able to abide by social distancing measures, they should be able to allow more customers in.”

Recent survey data from the MLBA indicates that only about two-thirds of bars and restaurants would be willing to reopen under the 25 percent restriction, leaving 1/3 of the industry closed. The data gathered from hospitality businesses throughout the state also indicates that 27 percent of bars and restaurants face permanent closure in the next month.

“At the end of the day, roughly 5 percent of bars and restaurants in the state have already closed for good. Overbearing restrictions like these will keep places closed because they’ll lose less money being closed than by being open at 25 percent,” Ellis said. “These next couple of months are the most critical for our industry. What the governor and MDHHS decide to do in the next couple of weeks will make or break one of the largest industries in our state.”