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State defends temporary ban on indoor dining in legal brief in restaurant lawsuit

Attorneys for the state of Michigan say a restaurant industrylawsuitis attempting to substitute a judge’s opinion for that of public health officials on COVID-19.

Last week, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association filed suit against the state’s order banning indoor dining for three weeks. 

The ban is intended to blunt a surge in COVID cases. The ban is set to expire December 9, but could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to grow in Michigan.

But restaurant and bar owners fear this order will put their livelihoods in jeopardy.

In its response to the lawsuit this week, the state says, “The virus remains prevalent. In fact, it is resurging.” The state also says bars and restaurants ranked higher than social gatherings, colleges, retail stores, and personal services, like hair salons and gyms as the source of COVID-19 outbreaks.

A health department spokesman says it's harder to track outbreaks at restaurants.

There’s a hearing on the restaurant industry’s request to block the state order on Monday.

The state of Michigan is suspending the liquor licenses and fining restaurants and bars that have been violating the state’s three week ban on indoor dining.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission on Wednesday suspended the liquor licenses of businesses in Newaygo, Fremont and Fenton.

· Cory’s Restaurant, Inc. d/b/a Jimmy’s Roadhouse located at 8574 S. Mason Dr., Newaygo. The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of its licenses and permits: Class C and SDM liquor licenses with a Specific Purpose Permit (Food), Outdoor Service Area Permit, Sunday Sales (P.M.) Permit, and Dance Permit on Nov. 24, 2020. · B. and D., LLC d/b/a Brew Works of Fremont, located at 5885 S. Warner Ave., Fremont. The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of the Class C/Specially Designated Merchant (SDM) and Brew Pub licenses, and permits for an additional bar, Dance-Entertainment, Catering, Sunday Sales (P.M.), Outdoor Service, Specific Purpose (Food), Specific Purpose (Golf), and Specific Purpose (Bowling) on Nov. 24, 2020. · The Meeting Place LLC, located at 3600 Owen Rd, Fenton. The Commission ordered an emergency suspension of the Class C and Specially Designated Merchant licenses and permits for Sunday Sales (A.M. and P.M.) and Outdoor Service on Nov. 25, 2020.

The state is also imposing fines of at least a thousand dollars against four restaurants.

• Big Boy of Sandusky, 422 West Sanilac, Sandusky ($5,000) • Café Rosetta,102 Fifth Street, Calumet ($1,000) • Woodchips Barbecue, 315 West Nepessing Street, Lapeer ($1,000) • The Meeting Place, 3600 Owen Road, Fenton ($1,000)

“The vast majority of restaurant and bar owners are doing the right thing and they have temporarily closed their indoor service to help prevent the spread of the virus,” says MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “We know this is not easy for anyone, this is not an action we take lightly, but the sooner we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 the sooner we can all get back to doing the things we enjoy.”

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.