Michigan extends restaurant restrictions with no public acknowledgment

NOW: Michigan extends restaurant restrictions with no public acknowledgment

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Back on Jan. 22, the state announced restaurants could reopen dine in Feb. 1 with a curfew and 25 percent capacity limit.

Just three days after that day came, on Feb. 4, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference announcing high school contact sports could resume – but one thing the state hasn’t publicly acknowledged, they also extended restrictions for restaurants for the next five weeks.

“The Department of Health and Human Services made amended orders that allowed contact sports to resume, that was the headliner, but also included in that update was the extension of limited capacity on indoor dining,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

Included all the way at the bottom of that Feb. 4 order, the subtle announcement that the state’s previous direction, which only required restaurants to operate with capacity restrictions and a curfew through Feb. 21, was rescinded.

And instead, is lasting through at least March 29.

With no public mention of this change from Gov. Whitmer or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services since, this came as a shock to restaurant owners this week, as they were hoping Sunday would mark an increase to 50 percent capacity for diners. 

“It was news to us, but I think half of the industry is expecting to be at this capacity for quite some time, just over the course of this year we all have a general feeling of how things are going to go,” said Christian Cook, Co-owner & Head Brewer at Silver Harbor Brewing Company.

The Berrien County Health Department is trying to help restaurants navigate this,  and while they have no say in the state’s decisions, they are informed of the basis being used for them.

“The numbers of new cases and percent of positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Conrad. “As benchmarks to making determinations on being able to resume certain activities.”

At Silver Harbor Brewing Company, they’re hoping the state will actually relax restrictions come March 29, but in the meantime, they continue to rely on carry out as their big revenue.

“On the weekdays, carry out’s probably half our business, so it seems like people aren’t really dining out on the weekdays,” said Cook. “It’s not by any means the way we modeled our business originally, but we just try to make the most out of each day we can.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also noted in that order that while the state’s seven day average of cases and positivity rate are both lower than they were in mid-November, they still remain higher than before the second surge of cases in early October.

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