Whitmer Announces $3.3M In Financial Relief For Michigan Bars, Restaurants

WWJ News
May 04, 2020 - 4:45 pm
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: State of Michigan)

(WWJ) There's help coming for certain Michigan businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday announced more than $3.3 million in financial relief is going to 657 bar and restaurant owners across the state — a financial lifeline averaging over $5,000 for struggling hospitality businesses.

 The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) is administrator of the governor’s spirits buyback program.

“I know the financial losses have been incredibly devastating to business owners in the hospitality industry during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Whitmer. “I am pleased that through this innovative program, we can provide much-needed cash to hundreds of Michigan’s bars and restaurants that are struggling right now, to help tide them over until they’re open for business again.”

Under the governor’s Executive Order 2020-46, the program offered a 100% cash buyback to on-premise liquor licensees for spirits they had ordered from the Commission prior to March 16, 2020. Licensees actually keep possession of the products the Commission bought back, with no bottles being picked up. Bars and restaurants have 90 days after emergency declarations are lifted to repurchase the inventory by selling it when they’re back open for business and pay the Commission back interest free.

“The Commission is proud to be a part of the governor’s one-of a kind liquor buyback,” said MLCC Chair Pat Gagliardi. “We’re extremely pleased to provide these neighborhood bars and restaurants across Michigan a financial lifeline they can count on in these uncertain times.”

Eligible licensees applied for the spirits buyback program directly through the MLCC from April 14-24. Once applications were approved by the MLCC, checks were issued to licensees from the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Dine-in services of all bars and restaurants in the state have been shut down since March 16 by Executive Order due to the coronavirus outbreak.They will remain closed, other than for carryout and delievery, through at least May 28 under another executive order issued by Whitmer last week.

Also announced Monday, Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2020-5, creating the Michigan COVID-19 Office of Accountability within the State Budget Office. The Accountability Office will provide oversight of all spending to address this crisis, and must report regularly on its work to the governor and the state budget director. 

“Protecting the people of Michigan and lowering the chance of a second wave has demanded flexibility and decisiveness, and has also required funds from the state treasury, philanthropic sources, and the federal government,” said Whitmer. “Michiganders have the right to expect that state government will be responsible stewards of their resources, especially in a time of crisis. I will continue to work around the clock to ensure these resources are spent wisely, in compliance with the law, and in a transparent and accountable manner.” 

The Department of Technology, Management and Budget will designate a Chief COVID-19 Accountability Officer to lead the Accountability Office. 

At a Monday afternoon news converence, Whitmer said she's please to see the virus curve flattening in Michigan, "we're not out of the woods yet." 

As some businesss sectors have been allowed to reopen little by little — beginning with constrction and other ourdoor businesses — the governor reiterated that we must continue to take the slow, safe route.

"If we open up too fast, we'll have to go through all of this pain again," Whitmer said. 

She said health officials are keeping an eye on certain areas of the state, particualrly in the west, that are seeing case numbers grow — even as the situation improves in metro Detroit.