Michigan Restaurant Chain Owners Urge Peers to Defy Governor's Indoor Dining Ban

Michigan Restaurant Chain Owners Urge Peers to Defy Governor's Indoor Dining Ban
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield, Mich., on Oct. 16, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

The owners of a Detroit-based restaurant chain are urging fellow restaurants to defy an anticipated extension of Michigan's statewide ban on indoor dining.

Joe and Rosalie Vicari, the owners of the Andiamo restaurant chain, said that they're going to reopen their dining spaces after the ongoing three-week ban ends. They called on restaurants to do the same, regardless of whether Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decides to prolong the restriction.

"Our industry cannot survive another extended closure," the restaurateurs wrote in a letter obtained by Detroit Free Press. "Thousands of restaurants and tens of thousands of our employees can not survive it either. We need to band together and FIGHT BACK but we need to do this as a United Group of Michigan Restaurant Owners."
Whitmer, citing a surge in CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infections in her state, ordered on Nov. 15 that dine-in restaurants and bars, in-person learning at high schools and colleges, and many other businesses and activities close during the three weeks between Nov. 18 and Dec. 8. Another order by the Michigan health department also limits indoor gatherings at private homes to no more than 10 people from two households, and caps outdoor gatherings to 25 people.

"We anticipate the governor will make an announcement to extend her 'pause' through the end of the year, on Sunday, Dec. 6," the letter reads. "We will be reopening our restaurants on Dec. 9."

The Vicaris, who own 25 restaurants including Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood, also invited restaurant owners and other interested parties to a meeting on Thursday at one of their locations, where they would have a collective news conference.

In a statement to Detroit Free Press on Monday, Michigan's health officials said that they sympathize with the restaurants and understand the "significant financial impacts" of the restrictive order.

"However, it is necessary to save lives and protect the public health as COVID-19 case numbers, deaths, and hospitalizations have spiked dramatically," the statement reads. "We continue to urge everyone to do their part by wearing masks, physically distancing, washing their hands frequently, and avoiding indoor gatherings so that restaurants can resume indoor dining as quickly and safely as possible."

The Vicaris' letter came days after the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) filed a lawsuit against Michigan's health department, seeking an emergency preliminary injunction to the indoor dining ban.

The MRLA, which represents some 5,000 hotels, restaurants, and bars, argued that their dining services can safely remain open, citing the health department's own data, which attributes only about 4 percent of the overall CCP virus infections to restaurants.

"We have taken this action only after careful deliberation and as the last available option to prevent the outright devastation of restaurant operators and their hundreds of thousands of employees across the state," Justin Winslow, the MRLA's president and CEO, said in a statement.