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Politics & Government

34 liquor licenses suspended over COVID-19 health rules since September

an empty bar
Patrick Tomasso

State officials are praising bar and restaurant owners for their ongoing compliance with the state's emergency COVID-19 health orders.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission announced this week it has suspended 34 out of roughly 8,500 on-premises liquor licenses since September for COVID-related violations. 

The violations have included the establishment's allowing in-person dining and gatherings and failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons.

State officials said that compliance by the vast majority of restaurants and bars has saved lives and will help the economy recover. 

"Our bar and restaurant owners have made incredible sacrifices in the past 10 months to keep their communities safe and slow the spread of COVID-19," said Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a written statement. "I want to thank those who have enacted strict safety protocols and worked around the clock to save lives. My administration has been working hard to secure crucial support for these businesses."

John McNamara, vice-president for governmental affairs for the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said words, while appreciated, are not enough.

"What our members want is action, and action in the form of allowing them to open their doors and serve people safely which they have been doing throughout this pandemic," said McNamara.

"Our members are tired. Our members are scared. Our members are frustrated," McNamara said. "They want to re-open. They want to prove this can be done safely. And I firmly believe they have every capacity to do it."

"We're hoping for some firm concrete plans moving forward that when this industry is reopened, it remains reopened," said McNamara. "Because when you shut a restaurant down for two weeks, it's going to take it at best two weeks - probably closer to a month - to be fully back up and running and operational. And the start and stops are just no longer tenable."

A temporary ban on in-person dining and gatherings in bars and restaurants went into effect on November 18. It has been extended twice since then and remains in effect through at least January 15. The most recent order can be seen here.

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