Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association suing director of MDHHS for restrictions prohibiting indoor dining

Posted at 1:02 PM, Nov 17, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association is suing the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The lawsuit comes after the state announced new restrictions on Nov. 15 prohibiting indoor dining in restaurants.

"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," MRLA President & CEO Justin Winslow said.

"We want to be clear that we made several good faith efforts in advance of the public release of the Order issued November 15 to reach a compromise with the MDHHS that would have supported the goal of minimizing risk while still allowing for the continued operation of dining rooms," Winslow said. "We are hopeful for a swift and decisive victory in court so restaurant operators may return to what we know they do best – adding value to our lives and our economy by providing a great meal and exceptional hospitality in a safe, socially distanced, sanitized and regulated environment."

In a press conference held Sunday evening, Whitmer and state health officials announced a "Three-Week Pause" aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus.

Between Nov. 18 and Dec. 8, dine-in restaurants and bars will be closed.

Read below for the MDHHS response to the lawsuit:

“Restaurants are at the heart of our communities, and it is deeply unfortunate that the federal government has not stepped up to extend financial relief for them. Unfortunately, COVID-19 spreads in indoor settings where individuals socialize without masks. There are currently 54 outbreaks associated with bars and restaurants in Michigan. Because about 50 to 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases cannot be tied to a known source of infection, and because tying cases to places where individuals may spend only an hour is difficult, there is an unknown number of further outbreaks not counted above. Targeted and temporary closures that include restaurants have been part of successful strategies for containing COVID surges in Western Europe. Other states are now following this approach, and it is supported by leading public health experts nationwide. The order rests firmly on epidemic powers given to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services after the Spanish Flu a century ago, and it is lawful. The sooner Michiganders put a pause on indoor social gatherings, the more lives we will save, and the sooner we will be able to resume our normal social lives, including eating out, without fear. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to support their favorite restaurants by ordering take-out or delivery.”
Robert Gordon, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

View the full lawsuit below: