Michigan Restaurants Still Likely to Struggle After Reopening
People in Michigan have been travelling to Ohio and Indiana for indoor dining, since it has been prohibited in Michigan due to Covid-19. Ohio and Indiana require social distancing, but they have not stopped indoor dining. We could see a change starting Monday, as Michigan opens up indoor dining again, which has been prohibited this time since mid November. Establishments in Michigan will only be allowed 25% capacity up to 100 people, and social distancing is still required. A 10pm curfew is also being added.
BridgeMI reports The names, Real Seafood and The Chop House, have ties to Michigan. So did many of their customers after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan dining rooms to close Nov. 18 due to a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other restaurants in Ohio, the Mainstreet Ventures properties have to adhere to social distancing, but didn’t face dining room closures like those in Michigan. “If you drive through our parking lots, you’ll see a predominance of Michigan license plates,” Gudejko told Bridge Michigan. As a result, he added, 2020 revenue for the company’s Ohio restaurants exceeded the previous year.
The State of Michigan is one of the last states in the U.S. allowing dining rooms to open. Policies in other states vary, Florida for example is wide open, and Ohio allows Restaurants to determine their capacity under social distance rules. Here in Michigan our metrics saw dramatic improvement during the current lockdown from the second wave that hit us in 2020. Looking back to November, Michigan had a very high positive test rate of 13.1 percent, and Ohio only had 9.9 percent. Our current positivity rate in Michigan is 6.1 percent, and Ohio is still at 9.9 percent, says National data. Michigan’s recent restrictions provided a very successful flattening of the curve.
Michigan still has concerns about the new variant strains, and vaccine distribution has not been as smooth as anticipated. Governor Whitmer says any change in the 25 percent capacity, “is dependent on our ability to keep the spread of the virus down.” Our State officials still feel uneasy about indoor dining because of the possible sharing of the virus, restaurant industry leaders question whether the data really supports Michigan’s level of caution.
The highest job losses in our country in the last quarter of 2020 were highest in states where dining restrictions were imposed, like Michigan, California, New York, Minnesota and Illinois. Colorado had banned indoor dining back in November, then allowed residents to resume indoor dining January 4th with limited 25% capacity just like Michigan.
BridgeMI reports Sarah Riggs, Colorado Restaurant Association president and CEO, said half of that state’s restaurants remain at risk of closure within six months, even with reopening. “We're hearing universally that restaurants are struggling, so it's fair to say no state has really figured out how to balance the public health demands of this crisis with the grave fallout experienced by our industry,” Riggs told Bridge.
Dine in restrictions are in place in most states allowing dine-in service. They limit capacity, and or social distance guidelines. Restaurant owners in Michigan were hoping for 50 percent capacity upon reopening, which is where we were during last summer’s lift on dining restrictions. But most will accept the lower capacity and hold out hope it will increase in the very near future.