06-11-2020 COVID-19 closures lifted for bars, restaurants, and salons; Watervliet Schools hires ne

COMING SOON… The lot of the former Badt’s Drug Store in downtown Coloma wasn’t vacant for very long. Within a few days of the demolition of the building, work on a new business building was underway. According to the sign in the picture above, AutoZone will be its tenant. For a history of the Badt’s Drug Store see Page 3. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)

COVID-19 closures lifted for bars, restaurants, and salons

By Jon Bisnett The latest battle of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in a courtroom rather than hospital ward, when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s attempt to penalize and strip the license of 77-year-old Owosso barber Karl Manke who refused to shut down his barber shop in defiance of the Governor’s May 4th order. The Michigan Supreme Court overturned orders that directed a barber to close his shop during the pandemic, ruling 7-0 in his favor with Justice David Viviano commenting that judges need to follow the “rule of law, not hysteria”. As a result, or part of the Governor’s master plan, Michiganders will now see salons and spas reopening statewide on June 15. Michigan bars and restaurants across the entire state have begun reopening at 50% capacity as of this week. While some are thrilled to get open, others are cautious or unable to adapt the 50% rule. Locally Gala-T-Inn in Hartford and Coloma’s Eddie’s Drive-In have both indicated they will not open their dining rooms at this time. Mill Creek Charlie’s remains dark in Watervliet, while other establishments are adjusting table spacing and stepping up their sanitizing protocols to comply with several restrictions that remain in place. Michiganders are still to wear masks in enclosed public spaces while also maintaining social distancing of at least six feet. Restaurant and bar owners remain positive, but for many the 50% capacity rule along with labor issues present a huge challenge to get back up and running. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association predicts as much as 25-30% will close their doors permanently in the next 90 days thanks to the irrevocable effect of the 3-month closure. “It is almost not worth it for us to continue,” said one owner. “We have 100% of our rent and utilities due, 100% of our staff to pay, with only 50% of our income coming in the door.” According to data in late March from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 37,948 direct hotel-related jobs were lost due to the pandemic. In that same time frame, 45-percent of the 193,432 hotel industry employees in Michigan were already furloughed or projected to lose their jobs. As of June 3, nearly 6 out of 10 hotel rooms were empty across the country. The most recent executive order says any indoor services or facilities, or outdoor services or facilities, involving close contact between people for amusement or other recreational or entertainment purposes are still closed.

Additional court ruling vs. Governor The Michigan Court of Claims has ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a legal battle over the lawfulness of one of her now 115 executive orders issued since the coronavirus pandemic began, The contested portion involves the penalty for violating the reopening standards. Prior versions included 90 days in jail or up to a $500 fine, the maximum penalty for conviction of a misdemeanor. Whitmer increased the possible penalty, without cause, to up to $70,000 per infraction by attempting to justify the infraction falls “within the meaning of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. “An employer who willfully or repeatedly violates (the MIOSHA) act, an order issued pursuant to this act, or a rule or standard promulgated under this act may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000.00 for each violation, but not less than $5,000.00 for each willful violation,” reads the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. The act also attempts to penalize a violator with prison for up to a year and up to three years if they are convicted of violating the act multiple times. Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray ruled penalties under the emergency laws that Whitmer used to create the order are limited to a misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine. The MIOSHA reference is not applicable.

Grad parties OK Under the new order, outdoor high school graduation parties are also allowed as long as people who don’t live together stay at least six feet apart. Those gatherings can’t exceed 100 people. Outdoor fitness classes, athletic practices, training sessions and games are allowed as long as coaches, spectators and participants not from the same household maintain a distance of six feet from one another at all times, Whitmer said. That means gyms and fitness centers can hold only outdoor classes and workouts as well, but they have to meet the social distancing guidelines. In-home services, such as house cleaning, are also permitted. Drive-in movie theaters can open, but indoor theaters remain closed

High-profile cancellations The prestigious 333-mile sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, scheduled for July 17, has canceled for the first time since 1920, as announced by the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Committee last Friday.

Locally The Summer Jam concert hosted by 97.5 Y-Country radio station and 98.3 the Coast’s Smooth Jazz at Sunset concert have both been canceled. Promoter Gayle Olson says the “uncertainty surrounding public health requirements going forward simply preclude organizing a quality event for thousands of concert-goers this year,” but he stressed plans to be back in 2021. Four Winds Casino Resorts has now officially announced noon on June 15 as the reopening date of all four properties with new social distancing partitions and requiring guests to wear face masks. Guests and employees must refrain from smoking except in specially designated outdoor areas.

Expanded testing Testing for COVID-19 is becoming more readily available all over the state. Contact your local Health Department or your family physician for resources.