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Whitmer, Nessel commend bar and restaurant owners for compliance with COVID-19 health orders

"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," Whitmer said.
Credit: File photos
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and other state officials today 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," Gov. 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. Remember, Michiganders, mask up, maintain six feet of social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can spread easily. We will get through this together."

Last April when Whitmer authorized a spirits buyback program for on-premises liquor licensees whose businesses were affected by the pandemic, and as a result more than $3.3 million in financial relief went to 670 bar and restaurant owners across the state. She recently announced a second liquor buyback that is in the works.  

RELATED: Whitmer announces $3.3 million in relief for bars through liquor buyback program

Back in June, 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.

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."

"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," Nessel continued.

Nessel’s office is working closely with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) as it exercises its enforcement duties. The MLCC, housed in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), issues and renews more than 19,000 liquor licenses -- of which approximately 8,500 are for on-premises establishments: bars and restaurants.

"We must certainly recognize these business owners for their compliance with emergency health orders during this unprecedented time," LARA Director Orlene Hawks said. "They have made great sacrifices limiting their business operations and for that, we are all grateful. By adhering to these temporary health safety measures, 2021 will be a great comeback year for these businesses who are the backbone of our economy."

The MLCC Chair Pat Gagliardi noted 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. 

"I am extremely proud of these business owners who have set an exemplary example during these tough times," Gagliardi said. "These licensees know that having a liquor license is a privilege that comes with responsibilities; namely, protecting consumers and the general public."

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.  

RELATED: ‘Rebellion becomes duty,’ Newaygo restaurant owner says of decision to operate

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. 

To date, there have been more than 519,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, resulting in more than 13,300 deaths.

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