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Judge refuses to block ban on Michigan indoor dining

The ruling means bars and restaurants can offer only drive-through and carryout service until Dec. 9
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Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 1:21 PM EST
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DETROIT (AP) - A judge has refused to block Michigan’s ban on indoor dining during a surge in coronavirus cases.

Federal judge Paul Maloney says a “plausible explanation” for the state order exists: People can’t eat or drink without removing their mask, a step that could spread the virus.

Maloney turned down a request for an injunction with a week left in the three-week indoor dining ban.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association filed the federal lawsuit on Nov. 17, the day before a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order required restaurants statewide to close dine-in service for three weeks.

The epidemic order only allows bars and restaurants to offer drive-through and carryout service until Dec. 9.

Restaurants fear that the steady loss of customers could put them out of business. They also fear a possible extension of the order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

After the ruling, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association issued a statement saying it now plans to lobby against an extension of the epidemic order beyond Dec. 9. Association President and CEO Justin Winslow wants to see hard data showing my restaurants have to close dine-in service.

“Presumptions and generalizations will not suffice and should no longer be tolerated given the significant human toll they have wrought from closing restaurants for a second time this year,” he said.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said the three-week ban on dine-in service was based on clear science.

“The science is settled: public health experts from around the nation and world say these types of actions must be taken to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases,” he said.

Here is the full statement from the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association issued after Wednesday’s ruling:

“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, it is important to note what Judge Maloney explicitly acknowledged in his ruling, stating that ‘Michigan restaurants are at risk of, or have already suffered, irreparable harm under Director Gordon’s EO.’ It is in that vein that we will now transition our efforts to preventing an extension of the MDHHS Order beyond December 8 and call on Director Gordon to provide clear and specific data to justify the sustained closure of restaurants across the state. Presumptions and generalizations will not suffice and should no longer be tolerated given the significant human toll they have wrought from closing restaurants for a second time this year. Moreover, we believe this industry, like any other that has been forced to close, deserves a clear pathway to the full reintegration of their business, with reliable criteria and metrics to be met from Director Gordon to facilitate that reintegration. We have ideas and reasonable solutions to offer and reiterate our willingness to engage in a substantive dialogue with this administration should they wish to do the same.”

“Important Facts to Consider:

  • The COVID-19 Outbreak Investigation data tracked by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) attributes approximately 4.3% of all outbreaks to restaurants statewide.
  • Approximately 250,000 employees are likely to be laid off from restaurants over the holiday season. Unemployment filings have more than doubled already from the week prior and are poised to get significantly worse in the weeks ahead.
  • If the closure is prolonged and federal stimulus dollars are not made immediately available, upwards of 6,000 more restaurants will permanently close by spring. For the record, approximately 2,000 restaurants have already closed their doors permanently in Michigan in 2020.
  • The state of Oregon closed restaurant dining for a two-week period between November 18-December 2 and decided NOT to extend closures beyond that date.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.