Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is ordering all bars closed for indoor service throughout the state, with the exception of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Bars are permitted to continue serving customers outdoors and, thanks to a new law the governor signed today, can also offer to-go and delivery cocktails.
The order applies to establishments with on-premises retailer liquor licenses get more than 70 percent of their “gross receipts from alcohol sales” such as bars, nightclubs, and strip clubs. It doesn’t apply to a majority of brewpubs, distilleries, and vineyards.
Bars in the state have faced increased scrutiny for a little over a week now, due, in part, to at least 107 COVID-19 cases associated with a “super spreader event” at East Lansing bar Harper’s. Three additional cases were recently traced to Fifth Avenue bar in Royal Oak and customers are being advised to self-monitor for symptoms of the disease.
The governor’s office release states that bars are the focus of the closure because they are “often crowded, indoors and poorly ventilated — all of which make it easy to spread COVID-19 from person to person.Bars also encourage mingling among groups and facilitate close contact over an extended period of time. They are noisy, requiring raised voices and allowing for more projection of viral droplets. And they serve alcohol, which reduces inhibitions and decreases compliance with mask use and physical distancing rules.”
According to the state, roughly a quarter of new cases in Michigan in June were among people ages 20 to 29, an increase from 16 percent of cases in May. “That shift aligns with national trends, and the evidence suggests that young people may be driving a new phase of the pandemic,” per a release.
“Following recent outbreaks tied to bars, I am taking this action today to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe. If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made,” Whitmer said in a release.
The news will likely come as a relief to some industry workers who have expressed concerns in statements to Eater and other outlets about returning to work during the pandemic and how customers might behave over the Fourth of July holiday.
“Bars will not have to close down completely, but may still offer outdoor seating and use creative methods like cocktails-to-go in hopes that we can bring our numbers down,” Whitmer said in a release.
Michigan allowed bars and restaurants to reopen for dine-in service at 50 percent capacity with six feet of social distance between groups across the state on Monday, June 8, after three months of offering only carryout, delivery, and walkup window service. Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula establishments were allowed to reopen slightly earlier over Memorial Day weekend. Enforcement of the state’s rules has proved challenging for many industry workers and business owners — particularly when it comes to masks. Several bars in metro Detroit preemptively closed this week in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Grosse Pointe area.
Michigan isn’t the only place to dial back its opening of bars. Many states and regions around the country are responding to an alarming number of new COVID-19 cases by partially closing down restaurants and bars again for dine-in service.
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