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Michigan Executive Order Closes Bars Up North for Indoor Service

Detroit casinos can reopen on Wednesday, August 5 at 15 percent of normal capacity

Tasting glasses of beer on rustic serving tray by the fire at local microbrewery. Kristen Prahl/Shutterstock
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.

Due to rising cases, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the decision to update two executive orders and impose more restrictions on bars in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula this week as well as placing stricter limiting the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings around the state. Beginning Friday, July 31, bars and restaurants in the northern regions of the state will be required to close for indoor service. Casinos in Detroit, meanwhile, will be allowed to start reopening at 15 percent capacity starting on Wednesday, August 5.

The governor previously allowed bars in Northern Michigan and the U.P. to continue serving customers indoors at 50 percent capacity, while others in the southern regions of the state were told to close for indoor service on July 1. Under the revised orders, bars across the state can still serve drinks outdoors service as well as to-go and delivery sales. The order applies to establishments with on-premises retailer liquor licenses that 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.

In a release, the governor’s office says the order was in part driven by the major outbreak connected to Harper’s bar that resulted in 187 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Several incidents of large gatherings in Michigan leading to outbreaks of COVID-19 also prompted revised limits on the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings. The updated executive order now requires indoor gatherings to be limited to 10 people or less and outdoor gatherings to 100 people or less. That portion of the order doesn’t apply to businesses such as restaurants or retailers. “The indoor gathering applies to ‘social gatherings’ and ‘organized events,’ not generally to business operations,” deputy press secretary Chelsea Lewis writes in an email to Eater. “Businesses are required, however, to follow strict workplace safeguards to keep their employees safe.”

Despite the new limits being imposed on business, Gov. Whitmer is moving forward with a plan to allow Detroit’s casinos to reopen at 15 percent capacity. Casinos are a major source of tax revenue for the city and have seen a sharp decline in business since closing in March. Still, gatherings in the district around the Greektown casino in Detroit, was recently referred to as a “hotspot” for COVID-19 by Detroit’s chief public health officer Denise Fair. Under the order:

  • Both customers, employees, and anyone else entering the facility is required to do a COVID-19 screening questionnaire and undergo a temperature check before entering the property
  • Patrons must wear a face covering unless eating or drinking
  • Smoking will be prohibited indoors
  • All of the self-serve buffets, coffee machines, soda machines will be closed
  • Entertainment venues such such as concert halls and nightclubs will be closed
  • Casinos will be required to follow strict protocols in terms of sanitizing, social distancing, and safety precautions for employees

The order also renews requirements for restaurants and bars that are open at 50 percent capacity. In addition to rules surrounding customer and employee mask use, alcoholic beverages are only allowed to be sold at tables, meaning customers can’t go up to the bar and casually order a drink unless they’re seated there. The order also explicitly states that restaurants must close “immediately if an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19” and undergo a deep cleaning. The cleaning can take place overnight. Restaurants are required to install “physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions at cash registers, bars, host stands, and other areas where maintaining physical distance of six feet is difficult.” Restaurants should also “to the maximum extent possible, limit the number of employees in shared spaces.”

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) announced plans this week to begin conducting COVID-19 safety random inspections and ones based off referrals at bars and restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores, grocery stores, and other retail establishments in an effort to increase compliance with the state’s rules.

As cases continue to climb across the country, particularly in southern states, the U.S. surpassed a grim milestone of 150,000 COVID-19 related deaths. As of Wednesday, July 29, at least 6,172 people in Michigan have died from COVID-19 since March.

Executive Order Rules for Casinos, Restaurants, Bars

Executive Order for Worker Safety

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Gov. Whitmer Orders Michigan Bars Closed For Indoor Service Everywhere But Up North [ED]
OSHA Steps Up Random Inspections of Coronavirus Safety Measures at Michigan Restaurants and Grocery Stores [ED]
East Lansing Bar Owners Must Present Reopening Plan to the State Following COVID-19 Outbreak [ED]
Northern Michigan’s Chaotic Restaurant Reopening Offers Lessons for the Rest of the State [ED]