Andiamo owners urge Michigan restaurants to defy shutdown order, reopen if ‘3-week pause’ extends

Shutdown effective through Dec. 8

Local restaurant owner urging restaurants to reopen amid worries of extension of governor's order

DETROIT – Two prominent restaurateurs stand by their letter, saying they would reopen their dining rooms after a three-week restriction order expires next week and called on restaurants to join forces in doing the same.

UPDATE: Andiamo owner backtracks: ‘We have never and will never defy mandated orders’

“This industry is hanging on by a thread,” Rosalie Vicari said. Rosalie and her husband Joe Vicari own the Vicari restaurant group, with high-end restaurants like Joe Muer Seafood, Brownies On The Lake and multiple Andiamo Italian restaurants.

Their new letter called on Metro Detroit restaurants to band together at a meeting this week.

View here: Letter sent to local restaurateurs

“We anticipate the governor will make an announcement to extend her “pause” through the end of the year, on Sunday, Dec. 6,” the letter reads. “We will be reopening our restaurants on Dec. 9.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced what’s been deemed a “three-week pause” as cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed in the weeks after Halloween. The order -- carried out through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services -- required closed indoor dining rooms, forcing restaurants to go back to carry out, curbside or delivery until the order was lifted. It expires on Dec. 8.

The statement in the letter was initially taken as a defiant stance against the governor’s order and the possible decision of a federal judge. The Vicaris said the letter was more about being prepared not defying the governor.

“We’re going to have lawyers [at the meeting] and weigh all of our options. It may not be the smartest thing to open up, or it might be the smartest thing to open up,” Joe Vicari said. The meeting is set for Thursday and so far the restaurateurs said they have had a positive response.

The fight the Vicaris are calling for is already playing out in federal court where the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is suing the head of MDHHS. Restaurants said the order to close dining rooms is unconstitutional and not supported by science. The state said it has the backing of the Michigan Hospital Association, and while they understand the pain of closing down, they can’t prolong the pandemic. They Vicaris disagreed.

“Malls are packed, Black Friday shopping. Gyms are packed. Hair salons are packed. Big stores are packed. Yet, restaurants are closed and we just don’t understand that,” Rosalie Vicari said.

The judge in the lawsuit, which is being heard in the Western District of Michigan, said he would likely issue a decision soon but did not give an exact date given the timeline of the MDHHS order, mentioning that “to say the situation is fluid is an understatement.”

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.