Companies React to Prolonged Eating places Restrictions

Bars and restaurants were only a few days away from reopening with extended service this Sunday. But now that has been put on hold – with the discovery that the state has tacitly expanded the epidemic order and limited the capacity of the dining room for another five weeks.

John McGee is a co-owner of McGee’s, Harrington’s By the Bay and Sorellina restaurants. To say he’s not happy can be an understatement. McGee is skeptical – and believes the state, which is adding stretching restaurant restrictions, is lagging behind and not relying on the numbers and data, showing a declining decline in COVID-positive rates in northern Michigan. “There are no words. Honest.”

An initial order in February noted 25% capacity for bars and restaurants – and was due to expire this weekend. But just three days later, on February 4, the state announced the return of college sports, and also tacitly added expanded restrictions on restaurants under that MDHHS regulation. It went unnoticed by virtually everyone until recently. But the news spread late Wednesday and John’s text messages exploded. “Unbelief. I thought it was a joke. Obviously they had already decided. Because they haven’t waited for numbers to be reported. “

“It was very incredulous that it wasn’t announced when they announced public sport. It was … thrown in quietly. In this order. My first thought was, wow, I’m expecting this from Washington DC, but not in my own state. “The announcement of the order relating to sports does not contain any reference to restaurants. However, if you click a second link to the “updated” order, the new information will be displayed.

McGee says it’s nice to work at 25% capacity, but it’s not enough. “25% just don’t cut it. It’s just … it’s something. “He says restaurants have proven that they can handle restrictions and that they need to take extra precautions.” We are already dealing with invisible bacteria. We already adhere to certain standards. Now we wipe chairs. Now wipe we remove the salt and pepper shakers, they are all disinfected. “Mcgees

He says the numbers don’t justify the pain the restrictions cause. In 2020, McGee said, “We had three cases in four buildings. So there is your science. There are actual numbers and it’s frustrating. “He adds,” We were hoping to go back to 50% (capacity) because the numbers have dropped. Anyone can go online and read them. “

Neither the governor nor MDHHS officials talked about the extension, and that has driven restaurant owners and employers like McGee crazy about his employees. “In 2019, my wage bill exceeded $ 4.1 (M) dollars. And there are a lot of families who rely on the decisions we make on a daily basis … If that is beyond you, well … “McGee just throws up her hands.

Kirstie Sieloff is Director of Government Relations at Traverse Connect and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance. She says the organizations she represents were also not notified of the expanded restrictions. “We were disappointed to see that. We see this expansion by the end of March. It’s been a long time bars and restaurants wait to hopefully reopen with higher capacity. We were disappointed that despite our advocacy efforts, we extended until March 29th. “

According to Sieloff, the catering industry deserves better communication. “We ask for clarity on a path to reopening, and we want the same clarity when it comes to these MDHHS orders. We have to know what happens next … and to do that we have to know what will come out. Overall, I think we can all benefit when communication improves and we know what’s coming. “

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association wants clear guidelines – reopening metrics. “Your proposed plan involves attempting a reopening based on the positive COVID rate. We are calling for a way to reopen our bars and restaurants. It’s hard to run a business without COVID. COVID adds another layer of complexity and all we want is to be able to tell our bars and restaurants what the future looks like for them. “

“Part of that is offering metrics. This is exactly what the MRLA plan does, ”says Sieloff. “By tying reopening to the percentage positive rate, they offer a certain level of security for the future. So that we can all participate and be part of the reopening process. “

The MRLA plan also provides vaccines for workers in the food industry to align them with key workers. The Chamber Alliance is committed to all of its partners. “We look forward to vaccinating all key employees. We know that we will only get out of the forest from the pandemic if our communities are vaccinated. “

RestaurantsMcGee says he recently traveled south to visit Florida, and it’s hard to see other places operate by different rules. “The frustration for me is that we are in the same country. We are in the United States. There are other parts of the country that lead normal lives. But not an entire industry in a state where your neighboring states are practically acting as they normally would. “

As opposed to having a menu where you have at least an idea of ​​what is in front of you, John McGee says one of the problems is that the rules are constantly changing. “We never know what the governor and her team will do. It is very obvious. We read the numbers and see them to make us believe they are going in the right direction. “

At the moment, restaurants still have to limit capacity to 25%. And that restriction will be extended until March 29th. “We have to cut staff in the back of the house and in front of the house. The old saying goes, “If you don’t plan, don’t plan.” This is the perfect circumstance for how and why our industry is losing employees. Because there is uncertainty. There is no way to plan. So you go to other sectors and we lose good people. ”

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