Michigan governor closes indoor bars, allows to-go cocktails

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said she was closing indoor seating in bars in parts of the state, including a city with a bar that has been linked to a rising number of infections.

Whitmer also signed a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails in an effort to help those businesses.

Bars won’t have to close down completely, according to an new executive order, and the Upper Peninsula and much of northern Michigan are not subject to the order due to low numbers of reported COVID-19 virus cases. All bars may still keep open their outdoor patios. The order takes effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“Following recent outbreaks tied to bars, I am taking this action today to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe,” Whitmer said in a news release. “If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made.”

In East Lansing, an outbreak tied to a large brew pub near Michigan State University has spread to about 140 people from a dozen counties, according to Ingham County health officer Linda Vail. She said most of the cases have involved younger adults, but some who have caught the virus from bar patrons are older at higher risk for severe illness.

Whitmer said in a news release that the outbreak tied to Harper’s Brewpub is not an isolated incident, and her order covers the state’s largest cities, including Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. Upticks in COVID-19 cases have been seen in other bars in Michigan and other states such as Florida and Texas.

Other states have seen harsher restrictions on bars to fight the coronavirus.

Florida banned alcohol consumption in bars on June 26, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom has closed bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles.

Michigan’s new cocktails-to-go law allows bars and restaurants to provide carry out and deliver cocktails to homes. It also allows local governments to determine “social districts” for people to consume alcoholic drinks from bars and restaurants in designated outside areas.

Restaurants and bars in the state closed dine-in services shortly before St. Patrick’s Day at Whitmer’s order and started reopening in northern Michigan on May 22. The rest of the state reopened indoor services on June 8.  (AP)

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