On Monday, Jan. 11, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and other state officials issued statements highly commending bar and restaurant owners for their ongoing compliance with the state’s emergency health orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, licensed establishments are strictly prohibited from allowing in-person dining and gatherings, as defined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Gatherings and Face Mask Order.
“Our bar and restaurant owners have made incredible sacrifices over the past 10 months to keep their communities safe and slow the spread of COVID-19. I want to thank those who have enacted strict safety protocols and worked around the clock to save lives,” Whitmer said. “My administration has been working hard to secure crucial support for these businesses. I was proud to, among other things, negotiate with the legislature to sign a bipartisan supplemental budget that provides support for small business owners like these. I will keep working around the clock on their behalf.”
Whitmer’s financial relief efforts for bar and restaurant owners began last April when she authorized a spirits buyback program for on-premises liquor licensees whose businesses were affected by the health crisis. More than $3.3 million in financial relief went to 670 bar and restaurant owners across the state — a financial lifeline averaging $5,000 for hard-hit hospitality businesses. She recently announced a second liquor buyback that is in the works. In June 2020, the governor signed legislation allowing bars and restaurants to sell cocktails and alcoholic drinks to-go for the first time in Michigan and expanded bars’ seating capacity in outdoor social districts. In July 2020, Whitmer increased the discount on spirits purchased by on-premises licensees from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) from 17 percent to 23 percent for 12 months.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also praised the state’s bar and restaurant owners. “I applaud every business owner in Michigan who has stepped up, braced themselves for the storm, and complied with Michigan’s public health emergency orders,” Nessel said. “This pandemic has brought them to their knees, but the vast majority of them have worked hard to stay open during the worst of times. Their creativity, innovation and sheer fortitude have set the gold standard for the rest of us.”
The MLCC Chair Pat Gagliardi said that the vast majority of liquor licensees are compliant with emergency public health orders and have taken the high road, setting high standards for the industry.
Of the approximately 8,500 on-premises liquor licensees in the state, the MLCC has suspended the liquor
licenses of a total of 32 establishments for violations due to the COVID-19 pandemic since last September. The licensees’ multiple violations of the current MDHHS order include allowing non-residential, in-person gatherings; providing in-person dining; failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons; and failure to prohibit patrons from congregating. During “normal times,” the use of Emergency Suspensions by the MLCC is generally infrequent. Over the last seven years, not including the recent Emergency Suspension Orders, there have been approximately 15 such notated suspensions, due to various causes.