(WWJ) A Michigan legislator wants cash-strapped restaurants in the state to be allowed to double their current capacity to 50%, as coronavirus numbers improve.
State Rep. Graham Filler, who has been touring restaurants and other establishments in Clinton County and southern Gratiot County, said he's supporting local businesses and the many people they employ while advocating for the safe transition to normal capacity limits.
Filler, of DeWitt, continues to call for an increase to 50% capacity, which he said many experts believe can be safely implemented based on current health data.
He said a clear, metric-driven approach will help local restaurant owners stay in business, restore jobs and boost communities.
Right now, a "Gatherings and Face Mask Order" issued by the state health department limits dining establishments statewide to 25% capacity.
The order is in effect at least until March 29, although it could very well be extended.
“These small businesses are such an integral part of our communities,” Filler said. “It has been an incredibly tough year for everyone involved in the restaurant industry – from the families who own these businesses, to the hard-working people who put in the work serving tables, cooking food and busing tables, to the suppliers. They need our support and they also need clarity for when they will be allowed to open up to more in-person diners.”
Filler kicked off his restaurant tour Feb. 13, visiting Knob Hill Tavern in DeWitt, the new St. Johns Brewing Co. and Bruno’s Bar and Grill in St. Johns. It continued Feb. 20 with stops at Main Street Pizza, Big Boy and Ryan’s Roadhouse in St. Johns and Looking Glass Brewing Co. in DeWitt.
“I’ve tried a lot of delicious food and some great locally brewed beer – but I’ve also heard many stories of hardship from people in our communities,” Filler said. “These small businesses have invested a lot in their communities, and they’re committed to taking the right steps to keep diners safe. Our state’s COVID-positivity rates are down. It’s time to move back to 50% capacity.”
While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not immediately respond to Filler, she has said restaurants would have to reopen slowly, and that the restrictions on such businesses are a big part of the reason Michigan's virus numbers are improving.
At a news conference last week, Whitmer said decisions on capacity limits and the like would continue to be made based on COVID-19 metrics and scientific data.
“Michigan is in a stronger position than most other states in the nation right now,” Whitmer said. “It’s because the pause worked. It’s because we’re being very thoughtful about incrementally reengaging sectors of our economy that just inherently pose a higher risk.”
The governor said she will “always take input,” but what she really needs now from the state legislators is their partnership in focusing on a pathway out of the pandemic.
This comes as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting nearly 1,500 new cases of the coronavirus over the past two days.
New statistics posted Monday show 1,484 confirmed cases and three deaths from Sunday to Monday. And as the U.S. hits 500,000 deaths, Michigan has logged 15,362 of those since last March.
While the number of people hospitalized is just over 800, that number has been dropping over the past month, according to the health department. In other good news, the state's percent positive rate has dipped significantly, now down to 3.7% from a high near 14% at the peak of the pandemic,
The latest information on the coronavirus in Michigan, including about testing sites and vaccinations, can be found at michigan.gov/coronavirus/.