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Detroit Issues Warning to Restaurants, Bars, and Nightclubs: Follow State COVID-19 Rules

Mayor Mike Duggan stated that city officials would be out speaking with business owners this weekend and monitoring compliance with capacity limits and face mask use

A red paper card on a table at El Nacimiento.
A card on a table at Taqueria El Nacimiento informs customers that a table is closed due to capacity restrictions. Mayor Mike Duggan stated at a press conference on Thursday, June 25, that some businesses in the city were not fully complying with state rules regarding capacity and mask use.
Christian Gerard

In a press conference on Thursday, June 25, Mayor Mike Duggan provided a stark warning to Detroit’s local bar, restaurant, and nightclub community: Follow the rules or expect to be shut down.

In a lengthy speech, the Mayor spoke about multiple “very concerning” cases in which city officials observed hospitality businesses falling short of state requirements for operating during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The mayor stated that over the next two days, employees from the Detroit Health Department including chief public health officer Denise Fair would be visiting local bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to speak with management about the rules and offer assistance as needed. If businesses failed to comply after a warning, they could potentially be closed by the city starting Monday.

“We have done way too much work to knock down the COVID infection rate in the city of Detroit, to have it get out of hand because of a few business establishments,” Duggan said.

Restaurants and bars were permitted to start partially reopening for dine-in service in the city of Detroit and across the state on Monday, June 8. Under the state rules, food and beverage businesses must operate at 50 percent of their normal capacity with six feet of social distance between groups. All staff are required to wear face coverings securely over their noses and mouths and patrons must wear them when not seated at a table. Businesses are also required to monitor employee symptoms, develop a plan in the event of a COVID-19 case at the restaurant, and employ other stringent training and sanitizing protocols.

However, Detroit restaurants and bars — like so many hospitality businesses across the country — are in some cases not adjusting to the new rules. Duggan says that over the past weekend several businesses — primarily nightclubs — were observed not enforcing the capacity limits. Duggan declined to identify the businesses.

In some cases employees were not wearing masks, which Duggan stated was “not a good faith effort” to limit the spread of the virus. Masks are considered to be one of the best measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus through airborne droplets — one of the primary ways people have been shown to contract COVID-19. Even if people are not showing symptoms, they could potentially be carriers, passing the virus along to others they’re in close contact with.

Not following state requirements can come with severe consequences, particularly at businesses like restaurants and bars where people are gathering with masks off to eat and drink. Duggan cited a particularly concerning case of an East Lansing bar, Harper’s, which temporarily closed this week after a customer tested positive for COVID-19. At least 51 cases of COVID-19 are now tied to the bar, which admitted to struggling with enforcing social distancing among customers on the street. “You could have two or three establishments spark a new burst of COVID in this community and we can’t have that happen,” he said. “I’m not going to allow a handful of people who don’t follow the rules potentially to shut down every other business in this town.”

“I pushed very hard for the governor to open up bars and restaurants in the city of Detroit as well as the hair and nail salons, but we made a commitment that we would continue to honor the social distancing requirements,” Duggan said at the press conference. “There’s no reason why the employees who are moving from person to person and capable of transmitting the disease in a hurry should be without a mask,” he said. “And so... if we continue to see the violations, the health department will come and talk to you Friday and Saturday night. And if you are not able to enforce the capacity requirements, we’ll be going into court Monday morning with the health department asking for an order for you to be shut down.”

Eater has reached out to the city for more details on how it plans to monitor compliance with restaurant and bar mandates going forward, particularly as states around the country see more cases tied to hospitality businesses. We will update this post when more information is available.

Watch the full discussion of bars and restaurants below:

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at detroit@eater.com.

1 pm Press Conference 06/25 [City of Detroit/Youtube]
Coronavirus Cases Tied to Michigan Bar Are a Reminder of the Risks of Pandemic Dining [ED]
Customers at Multiple Traverse City-Area Restaurants and Wineries Advised to Self-Monitor [Updated]
Restaurant Employees Become the Unexpected Enforcers of Mask Policies [ED]
Detroit Restaurants Take Cautious Steps Toward Dine-In Service [ED]

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