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Ingham County Reduces Restaurant Capacity in Response to Growing Outbreak Linked to Harper’s

The East Lansing bar is now tied to at least 107 positive cases of COVID-19

Waiter with gloves and face mask hanging an open sign “We’re open. Keep your distance” on a restaurant door. 
Bars and restaurants in Ingham County are now limited to serving 75 patrons or less in response to an outbreak tied to a high-capacity East Lansing bar.
Xavier Lorenzo/Shutterstock

On Monday, June 29, Ingham County issued a new emergency order reducing the capacity at restaurants and bars in the area. Restaurants and bars may now only serve customers at 50 percent of normal capacity or no more than 75 people — whichever is less.

The new local capacity limits come in response to a growing outbreak linked to Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub in East Lansing. People who visited the bar anytime between Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 20 are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days since their visit and seek out testing. There are now 107 positive cases associated with the restaurant, per a release. Of those cases, 95 are “primary” (people who visited the bar during the exposure period) and 12 are secondary cases (people who contracted COVID-19 after coming into contact with someone who visited the bar and became sick).

The state’s executive order allowing restaurants and bars to reopen, limits dine-in capacity to 50 percent of normal levels with six feet of social distancing between groups. Customers are required to wear a mask when not seated at their table. The executive order also provides local counties and municipalities with the option to impose stricter regulations to fight COVID-19. The Ingham County rule directly targets businesses like Harper’s with large capacities of 150 people or more. East Lansing Info reported that Harper’s had the largest capacity of any restaurant or bar in the city, allowing for 950 people during normal times and 475 patrons under novel coronavirus regulations.

All of the people who contracted COVID-19 from the Harper’s outbreak are between the age of 16 and 28 and 40 percent of them were current or recent Michigan State University students; so far, none of them have been hospitalized and most are exhibiting mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

Only 59 of the “primary” cases are residents of Ingham County. Other cases were traced to people with permanent residency in Clinton, Oakland, Wayne, St. Clair, Macomb, Eaton, Shiawassee, Livingston, Kalamazoo, Ottawa, Berrien and Calhoun counties. A satellite outbreak in the Grosse Pointe-area has been tied to a house party held by a symptomatic Harper’s patron.

“Large crowds are difficult to control,” Ingham County health officer Linda S. Vail says in a release. “By allowing no more than 75 people, restaurants and bars will be better able to enforce social distancing and the use of masks and face coverings. I strongly encourage all bars and restaurants to strictly enforce safety measures and to do all they can to help stop the spread of coronavirus in our community.”

Businesses that ignore the new county capacity rule could be subject to a misdemeanor that includes up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200.

Harper’s has been temporarily closed since Monday, June 22.

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.

Outbreak Connected to East Lansing Bar Balloons to 85 Cases, Spreads to Grosse Pointe Area [ED]
Coronavirus Cases Tied to Michigan Bar Are a Reminder of the Risks of Pandemic Dining [ED]
Ingham County Reduces Restaurant Capacity as Outbreak Linked to Local Bar Grows [Official]