Michigan's restaurants still set to reopen indoor dining Feb. 1 with restrictions

Indoor dining remains on track to resume in Michigan restaurants and bars beginning Feb. 1 with added restrictions. Dining indoors has been closed in Michigan since November.

The reopening of indoor service will come as welcome relief to many of the state's restaurants that have had their tables closed for months.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon confirmed the plans on a call with reporters this week, saying coronavirus trend data in Michigan indicates the state will be ready for restaurants to reopen. However, it'll come with added restrictions.

The updated restrictions on restaurants haven't been announced yet. Businesses are expected to learn what they could be in the next few days. They could include restraints like reduced capacity and curfews on establishments - measures that have been implemented in nearby states like Ohio.

The state uses three metrics - percent positivity of covid tests, case numbers, and hospitalizations - to help determine the next steps. 

While Michigan's seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has dropped below 2,000, the presence of a new and far more contagious strain of the virus, dubbed B.1.1.7, complicates plans for reopening.

Over the weekend, the health department confirmed its first positive case of the new strain in Washtenaw County. 

The state came close to its peak in daily deaths over the fall and it took months of lockdown measures to flatten the second surge's curve. Inviting more people back indoors could create scenarios for increased infections.

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Many advocacy arms of the restaurant industry, including the licensed beverage association have been pleading with the state to allow for indoor service to continue as economic pressures continue to pound the service sector.

Ten days ago, the MLBA said it was "likely" that Feb. 1 would be the reopening date for many of its members as it was negotiating with the state.

"Although we are disappointed with the idea of being closed for another two weeks, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel is certainly reassuring," read a post attributed to Scott Ellis, CEO of the group.