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Michigan hospitality group urges state to expand indoor restaurant capacity to 50% after restrictions are extended

Posted at 6:18 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 06:18:56-05

It's been 18 days since Michigan restaurants returned to indoor dining after the last round of pandemic-related restrictions, but capacity is capped at 25%, and many business owners say that is just not paying the bills.

Related: Michigan restaurant association releases plan to restore normal operations for hospitality industry

The restriction on capacity and the 10 p.m. curfew are now in place through March 29, and the extension wasn't really publicized. It was included in a Feb. 4 pandemic order on protocols for high school sports in Michigan, just days after restaurants opened their doors.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association has released a plan to the state that it claims can safely get restaurants back to normal.

"We definitely feel that we're ready to have more people provide a safe environment for everyone to come," Costigan said.

Winslow said that with the state's current coronavirus positive test rate at 3.9%, restaurants should be at 50% capacity. The MRLA plan takes a pronged approach, tying restaurant capacity to test-positivity rates.

He noted in the past that neighboring states like Ohio have successfully reopened dining with far fewer restrictions than Michigan, where hundreds of restaurants have already closed permanently.

"This last 12 months have been hard for everyone, and the burden's been greater for the restaurant industry, there's no question," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "We're also going to stay clearly focused on the numbers and the data and monitor where we are."

Ohio recently lifted its curfew for indoor dining and allowed for the return of buffets. While there are additional rules for cleaning, wearing masks, and keeping tables six feet apart, restaurants in Ohio are able to operate at normal capacity.

The MRLA plan also includes speeding up the process to get restaurant workers their COVID-19 vaccines, something Winslow said will likely make people more comfortable going out to restaurants in the first place.