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Michigan Governor Orders Statewide Closure of All Restaurants and Bars for Dine-in Service

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The new rule takes effect at 3 p.m. on Monday, March 16, in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus

customers sit at tables at parc in Campus Martius.
Restaurants and bars across the state will be ordered closed at 3 p.m. on Monday, March 16.
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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.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order today suspending the operations of all restaurants and bars for dine-in service as well as theaters, casinos, and other public spaces in the state of Michigan in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The order will go into effect at 3 p.m. on Monday, March 16.

Restaurants and bars will be permitted to serve through delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service. “Restaurants may allow five people inside at a time to pick up orders, so long as they stay six feet apart from each other,” per a release.

The restrictions do not apply to: office buildings, grocery stores, markets, food pantries, pharmacies, drug stores, and providers of medical equipment and supplies, health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities, warehouse and distribution centers, and industrial and manufacturing facilities.

Whitmer had issued a previous order banning all gatherings of 250 people or more and strongly recommended avoiding events with more than 100 people, shortly after the first cases were identified in Michigan on Tuesday night. School across the state has been canceled due to the outbreak and the state’s Gaming Control Board is working to enact a temporary closure at all casinos.

On Sunday, ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, state Attorney Gen. Dana Nessel gave a stern warning at a press conference to all venues that chose to ignore the 250-person event cap: Business owners could lose their liquor license and face a misdemeanor charge.

Meanwhile, governors in Ohio, Illinois, and California, as well as multiple municipalities, enacted rules that effectively shut down the service industry. The goal of all the measures is to enforce social distancing — an essential public health measure in reducing the rate of new cases of the novel coronavirus. If the U.S. fails to “flatten the curve” of confirmed cases, hospitals could become overwhelmed and health care could be compromised.

Still, the closures are likely to have devastating consequences for the food and beverage industry, which already operates on thin margins and relies largely on a tipped workforce with limited access to healthcare benefits or paid time off. While some businesses have moved to offer assistance to employees, it likely won’t be enough without federal or state aid.

Update, March 16, 12 p.m.: This story has been updated with more information from the governor’s office.

Michigan AG Urges Restaurant Industry to ‘Act Responsibly’ When It Comes to New Capacity Rules [E]
Gov. Whitmer Says Gaming Control Board Plans to Temporarily Shut Down Michigan Casinos [ED]
Restaurants and Bars Across the U.S. Face Mandated Closures and Other Restrictions in Light of Coronavirus Pandemic [E]
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]