In news that will likely come as a relief to some business owners in popular tourist cities, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today authorized the partial reopening of restaurants and bars with limited seating in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City area. Effective on Friday, May 22, businesses including bars, restaurants, offices, and retail stores are allowed to reopen.
Under the order, restaurants and bars will be limited to 50 percent of their normal seating capacity and are required to keep groups six feet apart from each other. Servers must also wear face coverings and restaurants must follow “rigorous disinfection protocols.” Unlike rules in states like Georgia, the executive order doesn’t prevent local municipalities from enforcing tighter restrictions on operations such as limiting service to outdoor seating only. The news comes ahead of the busy summer tourism season Up North, which typically kicks off around Memorial Day weekend in Michigan.
All businesses that choose to reopen must comply with Whitmer’s order 2020-91, issued today, requiring that employers provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions.
Social gatherings of 10 or fewer people are also allowed within those counties beginning Friday, May 22. Short-term vacation property rentals are still banned unless the renter is a a health care worker or volunteer in the area to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. People are required to continue wearing face coverings over their nose and mouth in enclosed public spaces with the exception of restaurants and bars in the two regions covered by the executive order.
Restaurants across Michigan have been closed for dine-in service and limited to carryout, delivery, and walk-up window service since March 16. Michigan’s statewide stay-at-home order and dine-in closure orders are currently due to expire on May 28. Whitmer had previously announced an outline of criteria for the state’s reopening called the MI Safe Start Plan. Step five described restaurants and bars reopening with precautions and is based on data showing a sharp decrease in new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Whitmer stated over the weekend that enough Michiganders had died from COVID-19 related illnesses to fill the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit.
As states around the country began to reopen sectors of their economies and allowed for dine-in restaurant service to resume, Whitmer faced increased pressure from business lobbying groups such as the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association to loosen restrictions. While some restaurant and bar owners support the idea of reopening, many in metro Detroit — one of the hardest hit regions during the pandemic — feel that it’s still too early to go back to face-to-face, sit-down service.
The regions covered by the executive order partially reopening restaurants and bars include the following counties: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Emmet, Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, and Chippewa.
• Detroit Restaurant Owners Say It’s Too Early to Think About Reopening Dining Rooms [ED]
• Restaurant Association Wants Michigan Dining Rooms to Reopen on May 29 [ED]
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• Where Restaurants Have Reopened Across the U.S. [E]