House Committee Passes Bills To Buoy Bars, Restaurants In Wake Of Coronavirus Pandemic

The bills would allow takeout alcoholic beverages and "social districts" for drinking

WWJ News
June 03, 2020 - 3:36 pm
restaurant patio

(WWJ) A pair of bills intended to buoy the struggling bar and restaurant industry has passed Michigan's House Regulatory Committee.

If they come into fruition, one bill would allow alcoholic drinks to be a part of a customer’s takeout order from a restaurant.

The other bill would create outdoor “social districts” where local governments could permit bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks, and people could gather from a distance to enjoy the beverages as well as each other's company. 

Josh Lunger of the Grand Rapids Chamber said Michigan is in great need of bills to reinvent the restaurant industry and keep it afloat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This legislation is supported by organizations like mine and cities across the state. And we are thrilled to support it. It’s a top priority,” Lunger told WWJ’s Beth Fisher. “An urgent need.”

Other leaders in the bar and restaurant industry are opposed to the bill.

Still, many experts say the success of Michigan’s restaurant industry is high stakes.

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said last month more than a dozen restaurants across the state close for good per day.

A survey showed an average of 20 restaurants per day shutter, Winslow said live on WWJ. 

"The industry overall, we're just shy of 10% of the state's entire GDP (gross domestic product)," he said. "So you can see the fallout of this industry could have a massive impact on the economy overall.”

Winslow added restaurant workers account for one in eight jobs in the state.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has given the greenlight for bars and restaurants to reopen on June 8 with limited capacity while abiding by CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines. They will only be able to operate at half capacity, and all servers will be required to wear masks.

The bills will now go before the Ways and Means Committee.