Gov. Whitmer signs orders to close some bars for indoor service, casinos to open Aug. 5

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that casinos in Detroit will be allowed to partially reopen with 15 percent capacity but is also closing bars across the state for indoor service.

Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-160 and 2020-161 in regards to the casinos and starting July 31, statewide indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and bars will be closed for indoor service across the state. This includes in Regions 6 and 8.  

“As we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Michiganders cannot afford to drop our guard. We must take every step possible to save lives, protect the brave men and women on the front lines, and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system while we continue to combat COVID-19,” said Governor Whitmer. “After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy. By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.”  

COVID-19’s resurgence is closely associated with super-spreading events at large social gatherings, often attended by young people. An outbreak at a Lansing bar has resulted in 187 infections; more than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline, and a sandbar party at Torch Lake over the July 4 weekend led to at least 43 confirmed cases. Therefore, Executive Order 2020-160 limits statewide indoor gatherings to 10 people or less and, across most of the state, limits outdoor gatherings to 100. (The outdoor gathering limits will remain at 250 in Regions 6 and 8.) 

Executive Order 2020-160 also orders that bars in every region, including those in regions 6 and 8, must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages. 

RELATED: Gov. Whitmer to allow Detroit casinos to partially reopen, reimposes restrictions Up North

Under the governor’s orders, Detroit casinos will also be allowed to open on August 5, but their occupancy will be limited to 15 percent capacity. Casinos must also, among other things, conduct a daily entry screening protocol for customers and employees, temperature screening. 

Casinos must require patrons to wear a face covering, except while eating or drinking or for identification purposes.

Whitmer's casino rules in full are:

  • Limit of 15 percent the legal capacity at each casino
  • Limited entrance points with temperature checks
  • A ban on smoking on the casino floors
  • No poker rooms
  • Heightened cleaning protocols
  • Social distancing

These limitations were approved on June 8 by the Michigan Gaming Board.

The new order restricts the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings of no more than 10 people in the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City region. Those two regions were moved to phase 5 at the beginning of June and were permitted to gather in groups of up to 50 people indoors.

Additionally, it will impose restrictions on bars and restaurants similar to what's currently in place in the rest of the state: the closing of indoor service. Whitmer closed indoor service on July 1 as the state's COVID-19 cases began to rebound. 

Throughout the entire month, Michigan's cases have continued to climb at a steady rate.

Bars and Restaurants were allowed to reopen on June 8.

Since then, bars have been linked to a growing number of large outbreaks, perhaps the best-known is in Ingham County where 107 confirmed COVID-19 cases were linked to a single bar. 

Bars and restaurants were first shut down on March 16 and were only allowed for take-out or curbside service.

Some of Detroit's biggest moneymakers, the COVID-19 shutdowns have slashed revenues in the city's casinos by more than 50%. Compared with year-to-date revenue reported last year of $617.9 million, Detroit's three casinos only brought in $299.2 million They also didn't produce any revenue in May or June due to orders mandating they remain closed.

The lost revenue also means there was a $25.8 million decrease in tax payments to the state as well.

In the past few months, all three casinos have issued WARN notices that they would be laying off employees. Last week, MotorCity Casino said it would lay off 2,554 employees and end health benefits while MGM Grand Detroit issued said in May it would layoff 2,632 workers. Greektown gave notice in June that it would permanently lay off 621 employees out of the over 2,000 who were temporarily laid off.