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Michigan restaurant industry asking federal court to block new ban on indoor dining

Restaurant workings sanitizing tables while wearing masks.
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Michigan’s new COVID-19 order shuttering indoor service in bars and restaurants for three weeks is now being challenged in federal court.

The new rules were announced Sunday. The order will allow take-out, delivery, and outdoor dining only starting Wednesday.

The rules are intended to blunt a spike inCOVID-19cases in Michigan. 

But Michigan’s restaurant industry is asking a federal court for an emergency preliminary injunction to allow on-premise indoor food and beverage consumption to continue. The lawsuit says the order violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause and due process rights.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association says it made "several good-faith efforts" to reach a compromise with the state health department before the policy was announced Sunday night.

“It’s confusing to us that you can still go out and get tattoo, but you can’t get a taco. You can get out and make sure you get that (manicure) and that (pedicure), but you certainly can’t go out for sushi afterwards,” says Justin Winslow, CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Winslow worries bars and restaurants will be “left behind” as other industries are allowed to continue operating. He says his industry is being made a “sacrificial lamb” that coronavirus data doesn’t justify.

MDHHS director Robert Gordon says indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread of COVID-19.

"There are currently 54 outbreaks associated with bars and restaurants in Michigan" says Gordon. "Because about 50 to 60% of all COVID-19 cases cannot be tied to a known source of infection, and because tying cases to places where individuals may spend only an hour is difficult, there is an unknown number of further outbreaks not counted above."

An Attorney General’s office spokesman says they are reviewing the lawsuit ”and will respond in court.”

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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