Michigan restaurant owner reacts to new indoor dining capacity rule

Capacity increases from 25% to 50% beginning March 5

LANSING, Mich. – Tuesday’s announcement that Michigan restaurants are able to increase their indoor dining capacity comes as good news for establishments that have now had to deal with two shutdowns since the pandemic started.

“Today (Tuesday), we are announcing that restaurants and bars can operate at 50% capacity. That’s up from 25%” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The long awaited announcement was made Tuesday, with the new change effective March 5. Restaurants will also have a 11 p.m. curfew.

READ: Michigan loosens COVID restrictions on restaurants -- here are all the details

“It’s encouraging, it’s very encouraging,” said Nikola’s BBQ manager, Velko Milosevich. “A lot of people are still scared to come out but I think the more they increase that number, the more people will be encouraged to go out.”

Milosevich believes this is yet another light at the end of the tunnel when it comes down to the pandemic, but he is glad he can now double the amount of people in the restaurant.

“We were at 25% and it’s been difficult finding employees especially in the cook staff,” Milosevich said. “We probably won’t stay open until 11 p.m. We’ve found that people generally haven’t come out that late.”

The newest public health order will also increase capacity limits at gyms, retail stores and recreational facilities, and will now allow visitation at nursing homes as long as a COVID test comes back negative before entering the building.

“All of these re-engagements will enable Michiganders to enjoy more of life’s simplest pleasures that have been disrupted over the past year -- going out for a meal with your family, a date night,” Whitmer said.

READ: New bill would allow Michigan bars to stay open until 4 a.m.

READ: Here are the 14 changes to Michigan’s COVID rules: Restaurants, gyms, stadiums, retail, gatherings

But Milosevich said it’s anyone’s guess as to when things will fully go back to normal 100%.

“I’m just hopeful by summer, things will return to normal. I hope we can stop wearing these masks. Everyone’s getting tired of the mask and I hope the employees return back to work,” he said.

The new set of restrictions will be in place through April 19, giving a window of time to see if those numbers will continue to decease as more residents get vaccinated.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association issued a statement on the updated restriction:

“We welcome the governor’s decision today to expand restaurant, banquet and meeting space occupancy and consider this change critically important, but the six-week duration of this Order is concerning and significantly too long to adapt to rapidly changing metrics around this virus. We are hopeful that this DHHS Order represents a paradigm shift in the administration’s overall approach to the hospitality industry, accepting that the dramatically reduced hospitalization rate and increased vaccine distribution mean our most vulnerable populations are protected and that reopening should advance in a timely manner. While we are disappointed about the length of the Order given the fragile state of the hospitality industry and improving outcomes, we are committed to working toward collaborative and consistent – emphasis on consistent – progress towards the full reintegration of the industry as Michigan moves more fully into a new phase of this pandemic.”