Macomb County restaurant & bar group to sue state, ask for millions in lost business

Posted at 5:42 AM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 12:11:59-05

(WXYZ) — There is continued pushback from restaurant owners who are angry over COVID-19 restrictions.

More than 100 bar and restaurant owners in Macomb County are now taking their case to court, asking to be paid millions in lost business.

The Macomb County Restaurant, Bar and Banquet Association is suing the head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Liquor Control Commission and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The group claims COVID-19 restrictions are not based in hard data and cost them big money.

"Our business is really down 60-70%. We're getting wiped out," Sam Backos, the owner of Ernie's restaurant, said.

The lawsuit isn't seeking to curb the state's authority to issue restrictions, but it wants to collect damages for lost business, while restaurants remain under a 10 p.m. curfew & 25% capacity, which was quietly extended until March 29.

The restaurant owners are citing a clause in the state's constitution that mandates people be paid if any regulations substantially interfere with the use of property.

"It's a taking, it's regulatory taking under the Michigan Constitution. We're asking that these businesses be made whole," Shawn Kelly, the attorney for the association, said.

The lawsuit also states that contact tracing shows just 4.4% of COVID-19 infections came from restaurants in Michigan, and nationally, just 2%.

We're stuck in a place now where we've lost the value and the equity that we've built up for 35, 40 years," Backos said.

Whitmer spoke on this earlier this week, saying the last 12 months have been tough for everyone, but the burden has been greater on the restaurant industry. OVERNOR WHITMER SPEAKING ON THIS EARLIER

The governor's office declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said her decisions have been based on science and data.

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