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

Joe Vicari releases statement stressing safety as ‘top priority’

The owner of Andiamo restaurants in Metro Detroit is backtracking and clarifying his intentions after first penning a letter to Michigan restaurants urging them to defy Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health department’s COVID-19 shutdown orders and reopen.

Earlier this week, Joe Vicari called on fellow restauranteurs to join Andiamo in reopening Dec. 9 if Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extend the current three-week “pause.”

But now Vicari is backtracking, stressing he has never wanted to defy the mandated orders and that his top priority is to protect everyone’s health and safety amid the pandemic.

Here is the statement released Friday:

“We are and will always be citizens and stewards of Metro Detroit. We have employed thousands of Metro Detroiters over the past 30 years as local business owners and will continue to support and donate to our community in which we, our children, grandchildren, employees and their families live and work. This year, we have unfortunately had to lay off 700 employees -- something completely unprecedented to us since we first opened our doors over 30 years ago.

This has been a devastating experience for us all. The safety of our community is our top priority, as we have all been affected and are all struggling through this pandemic -- some more deeply than others. Our intention with our letter to Detroit restaurateurs was to come together to have an open conversation on how we can preserve the restaurants in the Metro Detroit area while maintaining the livelihoods of our employees and upholding the health and safety of our community. We have never and will never defy mandated orders. Our goal is to figure out what’s next. How do we find a solution that not only fosters the economy of our great cities, but protects all Metro Detroiters including our employees who are also family?

Our hope is to move forward, united in order to protect everyone’s health and safety and slow the spread of this terrible virus, while maintaining jobs that sustain livelihoods and the ability to pay rent, mortgage, bills, and keep food on the table. We want to encourage hope and action so that Metro Detroit will survive and come out of this united and stronger. Thank you to everyone for your continued support!”

Joe Vicari Restaurant Group

In his previous letter, Vicari cited a Michigan Lodging and Restaurant Association statistic that claims only around 4% of COVID-19 cases in the state can be traced back to restaurants. Michigan health officials have said it’s extremely difficult to contact trace outbreaks in restaurants because of the short duration a patron may spend inside.

“Yet, she decided to close restaurants, again,” the letter says. “The malls are packed with holiday shopping, hair salons and gyms can remain open, yet our restaurants are closed.”

“Our industry cannot survive another extended closure,” he wrote. “Thousands of restaurants and tens of thousand of our employees cannot survive it either. We need to band together and fight back, but we need to do this as a United Group of Michigan Restaurant Owners.”

You can read the full letter here.

What Whitmer said about chance of Michigan’s stricter COVID-19 rules extending past 3 weeks

Meanwhile, Michigan’s top health official revealed the top six types of places linked to COVID-19 outbreaks in the state during Thursday’s briefing, and the list includes restaurants and bars.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, spoke Thursday during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 briefing.

“We are also still identifying many outbreaks across the state,” Khaldun said.

Here are the top six categories for identified outbreaks in Michigan, according to Khaldun:

  • Long-term care facilities
  • K-12 schools
  • Manufacturing
  • Health care
  • Office settings
  • Restaurants and bars

As for extending the restrictions at restaurants beyond Dec. 8, Whitmer said Wednesday she’s working with Khaldun, the state health department and other health experts to examine options.

“At this point in time, it’s really too early to say precisely where we will be in a few days, much less next week,” Whitmer said. “But I think it’s important for people to know: We’ve not predetermined anything. It’s going to be driven by where we see the numbers.”

As for penalties if the order is violated, liquor licenses have been suspended at several Michigan establishments. Citations from also have been issued to numerous establishments accused of not complying with the latest emergency order.