Indoor bar ban by Whitmer is latest blow to industry damaged by pandemic, say owners

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's newest order is shutting down most indoor bars in the lower part of Michigan.

It takes effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday and it affects any establishment that grosses 70 percent or more in alcohol sales, stopping them from selling alcohol indoors tonight.

"My wife sent a text message and said have you seen the news," said Scott Atchinson, owner of Abbibo in Mount Clemens.

Atchinson says it is the latest blow to the bar industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

"It's the short notice that just keeps stabbing people," he said.

Atchinson said it left owners like him with mere hours to prepare. The order states bars cannot serve alcohol in here, but will still be able to serve alcohol on their small patio.

"To be very honest with you for the last few months we have been scraping by and barely making it," he said.

MORE: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer orders indoor bar service closed throughout lower Michigan

Patrons can only go inside to access outdoor seating or use the bathroom.

Whitmer says reopening bars on June 8 is linked to a spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in young people like the 107 cases traced to Harper's, in East Lansing. 

Much smaller clusters have been found in Grosse Pointe and in Royal Oak at Fifth Avenue, the latter that had three cases.

"All you can do is roll with these punches," said Tony Yezbick, the owner of Fifth Avenue.

Yezbick says his bar is in compliance and dismissed claims of overcrowding. He even says they use a counter to monitor occupancy. 

His business will taking alcohol sales outside using this new patio.

"Unfortunately with this, more businesses are going to go dark," he said. "And when they cure Covid there aren't going to be many places to go."

Restaurants that serve alcohol will still be able to do so - but only to people sitting at socially distanced tables. All congregating areas have got to go.

MORE: Gov. Whitmer signs bill to allow cocktails-to-go and discounts on liquor

Bars will be allowed to prepare drinks to go, but some said it will take time to get that service up and running.