Bars, restaurants brace for new pandemic restrictions as 3 week 'pause' begins

The restrictions go into effect at midnight aimed at stemming the spread of Covid cases. Lives and livelihoods are what’s at stake in this pandemic.

"I’m not discounting this pandemic, it’s a terrible thing but I guess the way I look at it too is, you can’t stop living your life. you can’t just shut down the economy and certain parts of the economy," said Dan Sheehan. "People still have to have jobs. You still have to be able to pay your bills."

Sheehan’s on the Green in Plymouth has been seeing red since the pandemic began in March. 

Revenue has been cut in half, workers have been laid off and a new round of Covid restrictions limiting bars and restaurants to outdoor dining and carryout service only may do irreparable harm.

"By doing what they’re doing, they’re really cutting our lights off - and I think that’s wrong," Sheehan said. 

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is suing the state health department to stop the new Covid restrictions.

"The state has been doing contact tracing data for months and found that only about four percent of that can be traced back to this industry," said Justin Winslow, Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Even so, Winslow says the pandemic forced about 2,000 restaurants to close their doors for good and these new restrictions will leave many jobless. 

Justin Winslow

"There’s no supplemental unemployment insurance to help those negatively impacted," he said. "And that’s what concerns us pretty terribly because we think there’s going to be about 250,000 people laid off right before the holidays with a questionable amount of reserves put in place, to make sure they’re taken care of."

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The Department of Health and Human Services says: “Targeted and temporary closures that include restaurants have been part of successful strategies for containing Covid surges in western Europe.

“Other states are now following this approach, and it is supported by leading public health experts nationwide.”

For Keith Gambrell, who lost two family members to COVID-19, these three weeks of new restrictions don’t go far enough.

"I think everything needs to be shut down, malls. We need to be in the house. It’s the safest place for everybody," he said.

The spike in COVID-19 cases hits home for Gambrell, whose father and grandfather died from the virus within hours of one another. His mother was hospitalized twice.

"People cannot support businesses if they’re not alive to support businesses," Gambrell said. "I think a lot of people need to put people’s lives over money. money ain't everything. especially when you lose people."

Dan Sheehan

The full statement from Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services:

"Restaurants are at the heart of our communities, and it is deeply unfortunate that the federal government has not stepped up to extend financial relief for them. unfortunately, COVID-19 spreads in indoor settings where individuals socialize without masks. there are currently 54 outbreaks associated with bars and restaurants in Michigan. because about 50 to 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases cannot be tied to a known source of infection, and because tying cases to places where individuals may spend only an hour is difficult, there is an unknown number of further outbreaks not counted above.”

Winslow said that word from the courts about the lawsuit should come down by Thursday night.