Court Rules in Favor of Restaurant Restriction Orders but Cautions MDHHS Director Gordon

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Photo by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

| 3 min | by Doug Marrin |

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) filed a lawsuit on November 15 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The lawsuit came on the heels of new restrictions from the state for bars and restaurants and restaurants as COVID-10 cases continued to surge in Michigan. The MRLA sought an emergency preliminary injunction that would allow Michigan restaurants and bars to continue with indoor dining while following appropriate health and safety protocols.

Yesterday, Dec. 2, the court ruled in favor of Gordon and Whitmer.

In a statement, MDHHS Gordon said of the ruling,

“We are happy that today’s ruling keeps in place measures that will save lives by limiting specific indoor gatherings that greatly increase the risk of COVID-19 spread. 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. These protocols on specific indoor gatherings, along with wearing face masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing, give Michigan a fact-based approach to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can return to a strong economy and get back to normal safely as soon as we can.”

In a statement, MRLA President and CEO Justin Winslow responded with a cautionary quote from the judge.

"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.”

Winslow went on to say,

  • 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. "

The Executive Order from MDHHS prohibiting inside dining is set to expire Dec. 8. No announcement has yet been made as to whether the order will be extended.

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