How are Michigan's restaurants doing compared with neighboring states?

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 18:22:47-05

(WXYZ) — Is Michigan suffering more than neighboring states due to pandemic restrictions? Some certainly think so. 7 Action dug deeper.

Frustrations among Michigan restaurant owners are boiling over. Now capacity restrictions will stay in place for at least another month.

A group of restaurant owners in Macomb County is now suing the state. They want the state to pay them damages for the money they’ve lost during the pandemic.

"To see our life's work and in my case 44 years. pretty much starting to go up in smoke,” says Samual Bakos owner of Ernie’s in Clinton Township.

Michigan Restaurants have been closed for indoor dining more days of this pandemic than our neighboring states. The capacity restrictions in Michigan have been and are more restrictive.

Local business owners say it's been devastating.

“We don’t just lose our business, we lose our homes, our cars, we lose our souls,” says Mark Miller, owner of Little Camille's By The Bay in New Baltimore.

Despite more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in neighboring states, the industry doesn't seem to be doing much better.

Michigan has 17,000 licensed restaurants, while Ohio has 23,000 licensed restaurants according to the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association.

An estimated 3,000 restaurants have permanently closed in Michigan. An estimated 4,000 restaurants have closed in Ohio.

Which percentage-wise is pretty much the same and only slightly higher than the national estimate.

The percentage of restaurants that have closed during the pandemic:

  • 17.6 % in Michigan
  • 17.4% in Ohio
  • 20% in Indiana
  • 17% nationwide according to the National Restaurant Association.

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association President Justin Winslow says Indiana is getting a lot of Michigan’s event business.

“Indiana is one of two states that has grown their hospitality industry during the pandemic specifically because they border Michigan and Illinois, both of which have had prolonged closures and very strict occupancy,” says Winslow.

One man even paid for billboards that name Governor Gretchen Whitmer Indiana’s Business Person of the year.

Different states use different metrics to arrive at their data. The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates 20% of Indiana’s restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic, compared to Michigan’s 17.6 percent.

The IRLA says two-thirds of Indiana hotels face bankruptcy, which is similar to the estimate in Michigan.

Based on the number of businesses going out of business, Michigan’s restrictions don’t seem to have had a significant impact on the outcome.

As with everything in the pandemic things can change quickly.

Indiana is hosting all 67 March Madness games and leaders anticipate it will give the state’s hospitality industry a big boost. Meanwhile, Michigan restaurants worry about how much longer they will survive with an extended 25 percent capacity restriction.

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