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As Cases Soar, Michigan Restaurant Association Touts Full Reopening Sooner Rather Than Later

According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Michigan Restaurant Association, 64 percent of respondents support reopening restaurants at 100 percent capacity now


With cases up 133 percent over the last 14 days, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) touts fully reopening the state’s restaurants and bars sooner rather than later.

According to a 600-person survey conducted on behalf of the MRLA between March 18 and March 22, 64 percent of respondents support reopening restaurants at 100 percent capacity now or when all residents are eligible for the vaccine. Nearly 66 percent of those surveyed say they have already dined out or feel comfortable dining out, with nine percent saying they will dine out once vaccinated.

The survey also indicates most are in favor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or the director of the Department of Health and Human Services making public a “comprehensive plan focused on data, metrics and science” regarding decisions surrounding COVID-19 restrictions.

“A clear takeaway from this survey is that Michiganders are beyond ready to get back to the experiences that bring joy and meaning to their lives,” MRLA president Justin Winslow says in a prepared statement. “This survey data shows overwhelming bipartisan support for the prioritized safety of hospitality workers on the frontline and for greater transparency and accountability in future decision making by the state.”

In February, the MRLA proposed its own reopening plan which includes a set of guideposts for local and state officials to follow in order to reopen restaurants and bars using tiered capacity limits based on Michigan’s seven-day average positivity rate. The plan proposes that if the positivity rate is between 3 percent and 7 percent, restaurants and bars could reopen at 50-percent indoor capacity with no curfew. A positivity rate below 3 percent would allow indoor dining to resume with no capacity limits in place. In other words, the higher the positivity rate, the tighter the restrictions.

Following this plan now would see cities like Detroit, where the positivity rate is 10 percent, tightening rather than loosening restrictions on restaurants and bars. The current state positivity rate sits at 11.9 percent. Michigan restaurants and bars are presently allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity through April 19. Health experts note the increase in cases across Michigan over the last three weeks followed the easing of statewide COVID-19 restrictions on March 5, including an increase in indoor dining capacity.

A representative speaking of behalf of the MRLA says the association stands by its proposed reopening plan.

The vast majority of respondents polled for the MRLA survey are in favor of prioritizing hospitality workers for the vaccine, something the association also continues to ask state officials to do in its rollout plan. On Monday, April 5, the vaccine pool opens up further statewide to previously ineligible Michigan residents age 16 years and older.

Last week, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan expanded eligibility to adults age 18 years or older with jobs requiring them to regularly report to work in person within the city limits and Detroit residents working in the city or suburbs. With cases climbing, especially among young people, the mayor announced Monday, March 29, that all city residents age 16 years and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for individuals 16 years and up, while Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are authorized for people 18 years and older.

The MRLA has yet to respond to Eater’s request for comment regarding more details on the respondents of the survey and further reopening restaurants and bars as cases in the state increase.