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Michigan Restaurants file lawsuit against MDHHS to reverse ban on indoor dining

November 18, 2020
Downtown East Lansing on July 17, 2020.
Downtown East Lansing on July 17, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

A group of restaurant and hospitality associations filed a lawsuit Tuesday to remove restrictions imposed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, Nov. 15 emergency order banning indoor dining for the next three weeks. The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction in order to resume indoor dining.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, or MRLA, Heirloom Hospitality Group, and Suburban Inns filed the suit against MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. The suit states that restaurants and bars have been able to provide services while still following guidelines issued by the CDC, and should be allowed to continue to do so. 

“We want to be clear that we made several good faith efforts in advance of the public release of the Order issued November 15 to reach a compromise with the MDHHS that would have supported the goal of minimizing risk while still allowing for the continued operation of dining rooms,” the MRLA said in a press release on Nov. 17. “The MRLA committed to substantially increased restrictions on our industry, including reducing capacity in restaurants to 25% and implementing a 10 p.m. curfew for the duration of the Order."

The 'Three-Week Pause' restrictions were announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer due to skyrocketing increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The suit claims that the restrictions are unfair as they allow other non-essential businesses to retain indoor business operations.

“The November 15 Order is neither neutral nor generally applicable and singles out restaurants while permitting indoor business operations at many other non-essential businesses such as salons, gyms, tattoo parlors, and retail establishments,” the 28-page lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs are alleging violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The plaintiffs also claimed that the order will lead to catastrophic economic fallout.

“Plainly, based on MDHHS’ own transmission data, the human toll on restaurant owners, their employees, and the entire foodservice supply chain will be dramatically worse than what Director Gordon is attempting to mitigate through the November 15 Order,” the lawsuit said.

Gov. Whitmer’s order also restricts gatherings in entertainment venues including cinemas and stadiums, and recreational facilities like clubs and casinos.

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