Return of indoor dining in Michigan? Gov. Whitmer announces plans

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer scheduled a noon press conference where she announced plans for the return of indoor dining -- something Michigan residents haven't enjoyed since November. She revealed that if current coronavirus trends continue, restaurants may reopen Feb. 1.

Plans for the return of dining will reportedly include a curfew and limited occupancy, though details are not yet known.

The ban on indoor dining is expected to lift -- though not immediately -- as Michigan again "flattens the curve" of new coronavirus cases and deaths. Using the latest coronavirus numbers, the state's restaurant industry urged owners and employees to push the state to reopen dining rooms and bars.

Michigan's restaurant industry has suffered under the move to carryout only, with some defying the order and facing fines and loss of their liquor license. One was fined $11,000 just last week for continuing to operate with indoor dining despite the governor's order.

"She is keeping us closed until February 1st and suggesting it’s a favor (“so they have time to work with their supply chain and figure out staffing”). And then there will be a curfew, still limited capacity and masks. What can be done to stop this?? There’s nothing preventing her from extending it endlessly until all of us go out of business. Is there a plan to save restaurants from this??" Kelly Wagner wrote on Facebook.

Most restaurants have followed the rules, but complained bitterly that the entire industry in the state may not survive the repeated shutdowns of 2020. An estimated 40%-50% of restaurants said they would not survive if another shutdown was enacted -- then it was.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association sued the state in November over the closure, saying it was their last available option to prevent "the outright devastation of restaurant operators and their hundreds of thousands of employees across the state."

Winslow said the association initially tried to reach a compromise to minimize risk while keeping restaurants open, proposing tighter restrictions such as a 25% capacity limit and 10 p.m. curfew. They did not prevail in court.