Michigan Loosens Capacity Restrictions – But Business Survival is Still at Stake
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated two of its epidemic orders, allowing for increased capacity limits at various venues, larger residential and nonresidential gatherings, and expanded visitation opportunities at residential care facilities.
Earlier this week, the Grand Rapids Chamber led on a letter sent to Governor Whitmer supporting the concept of a graduated reopening of restaurants that is science-based and data-driven. The letter was signed by 13 other business organizations whose memberships are made up of all industry types, including restaurants and health systems.
Under the new orders, restaurants are able to increase capacity to 50% and have an additional 1 hour added to their curfew which now forces closure at 11:00 p.m.
Wedding and Banquet Venues Still Lack Direction
In February, the Chamber asked the Governor for reduced restrictions on indoor wedding and banquet venues where most have not hosted an event since March 2020. Chamber staff also hosted a call with some of these venues and the Governor’s staff to discuss the unique difficulties for the industry, their experience over the last year, and how they have and will plan to reopen safely.
Although the capacity is still extremely limited, MDHHS has increased capacity for indoor non-residential gatherings to 25 people which was previously set at only 10 people.
Chamber members in the banquet and wedding industry tell us that the 25-person threshold doesn’t change their survivability and without more certain guidance for the coming months, it will be impossible for them to plan weddings and other events. They are quickly facing losing the spring and summer seasons. These venues have had a year to plan to safely operate and have prepared extensive procedures to protect their customers and still provide a memorable experience.
This is extremely disappointing and frustrating for them as other indoor venues are able to (rightly) benefit from the improving metrics. Business survival is at stake. We will continue to advocate for a more reasonable lifting of restrictions based on a capacity formula and other accepted standards.
- Restaurants and bars are allowed to be at 50% capacity up to 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. There is now an 11 p.m. curfew.
- Indoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households are permitted up to 25 people, allowing public meetings and other small indoor gatherings to resume.
- Outdoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households are permitted up to 300, allowing larger outdoor events to resume.
- Indoor entertainment venues are allowed to be at 50% capacity, up to 300 people.
- Exercise facilities are allowed to be at 30% capacity with restrictions on distancing and mask requirements.
- Retail is allowed to be at 50% capacity.
- Casinos are allowed to be at 30% capacity.
- Indoor stadiums and arenas are allowed to have 375 if seating capacity is under 10,000; 750 if seating capacity is over 10,000.
- Outdoor entertainment and recreational facilities may host up to 1,000 patrons.
Changes to the Gatherings and Mask Order go into effect Friday, March 5, and remain in effect through Monday, April 19.
The Governor also announced a workgroup to reengage office spaces and phase in a return to working in person. Earlier this month the Chamber, along with 5 major business groups across Michigan, sent a letter asking for action to allow employees to return safely to offices. With a continued decline in cases and the approval of a third vaccine, there is hope that our once-vibrant downtowns will return and be a crucial next step in Michigan’s recovery.
“These are steps in the right direction for our severely impacted industries,” said Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber. “There is much more work to do, however, and we remain steadfast in our call to join other Midwest states in fully reopening these industries. To provide clarity, businesses need to see benchmarks from the Whitmer Administration on how to get there. This does not mean we don’t take the threats of the virus seriously. We believe we can do so safely by empowering citizens and business.”