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Oakland County Mandates That Restaurants and Bars Must Reduce Capacity by 50 Percent

The measure is the latest step in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus

The black and white chairs and tables are empty inside Atomic Coffee in Royal Oak.
Oakland County has ordered restaurants, bars, and other facilities in the city to reduce capacity by 50 percent.
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Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

During an unprecedented week, bars and restaurants throughout the country have been hit hard as authorities work to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered a ban on all gatherings of 250 people or more and warned against events larger than 100 people. Now, Oakland County is taking an additional step: Mandating all licensed food and beverage establishments reduce capacity by 50 percent.

The new rule, which begins on March 16 and runs through April 5, applies to bars, restaurants, and venues such as churches, banquet halls, and gyms, Crain’s reports. The county also issued printable notices to be posted at facilities.

Bars, restaurants, and other establishments in the service industry quickly adopted new measures last week to help reassure customers and staff that it was safe to dine out as the first cases of the new coronavirus were identified in Michigan. The outbreak has already had a severe impact on small businesses and non-salaried employees in the region, forcing temporary closures and event cancellations. The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates that event cancellations have resulted in a more than $148 million loss to the region in just a single week.

According to data released by online booking site OpenTable, reservations year over year at Michigan restaurants were down 20 percent on March 12, 43 percent on March 13, and 49 percent on March 14 (about 7 percent higher than the national average for March 14).

A large proportion of restaurants have adopted additional cleaning measures and launched curbside or online ordering. Some restaurants such as Stage Deli in West Bloomfield had already begun reducing capacity as part of “social distancing” measures — following the lead of restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. Others have closed dining rooms entirely.

The CDC advises people protect themselves and the community with more frequent handwashing and by reducing contact with others, as well as by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. People should stay home if they are sick and cover coughs and sneezes. Individuals who suspect they are sick should call their doctor before going into an office and should further review the CDC’s recommendations.

Emergency Order for Coronavirus Epidemic Restaurants

Oakland County Public Health Orders [Official]
Oakland County Orders Bar and Restaurant Capacity Cut in Half Amid Virus Outbreak [Crain’s]
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]