Northern Michigan businesses call for higher capacity limits to stay open through the new year

NORTHERN MI – The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer advocating for higher capacity limits for northern Michigan bars, restaurants, and meetings and banquet centers. The organization represents 16 chambers and economic development organizations and over 7,000 member businesses from all across northern Michigan. 

This request comes as businesses pivot from summer to winter service and prepare for the colder months. “The colder weather is already here and outdoor seating is not an option for businesses, like some of our bars, who are unable to offer indoor service due to COVID restrictions,” said Amy Clickner, vice-chairperson of the Alliance and CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership. “Higher indoor capacity is a necessity to keep these businesses open and protect jobs.”

Regions 6 & 8 were able to reopen first during the initial phases of reopening. Bars that earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages cannot currently offer indoor service. In an Alliance survey of mostly bars and restaurants, over 70% of the business respondents feel comfortable operating at a capacity of 75% or higher, considering staff availability and required safety procedures.

“Working with our public health partners to increase capacity limits is our number one priority right now,” said Stacie Bytwork, the chairperson of the Alliance and president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “If we want to be able to visit our favorite bar and restaurant establishments in the spring, we need them to be able to generate revenue during the winter season.”

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance’s letter to the Governor requested an Executive Order be issued that includes:

  • Expanded indoor capacity of 75% in regions 6 & 8 at bars, restaurants, and meetings and banquet centers if the data reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services falls below a three-percent positive test rate over an extended period
  • The treatment of meetings and banquets centers in regions 6 & 8 the same as bars and restaurants
  • The ability for bars and restaurants to retain the expanded capacity they gained via patios and other outdoor solutions this summer by allowing them to safely winterize those spaces while extending their temporary alcohol service permits

“Our chambers and economic development organizations have supported our businesses in reopening safely,” said Kirstie Sieloff, Director of Government Relations for the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and Traverse Connect. “We continue to share the message of ‘Stay Safe to Stay Open’ and wearing a mask to keep our businesses open and our friends and neighbors employed.” In its letter to the Governor, the Alliance affirmed that after the summer visitors have gone home, northern Michigan remains at a relatively controlled risk level.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continues to support chambers, economic development organizations, and their member businesses by providing timely information and advocating for rural business needs at the state and federal levels. The Alliance is engaged in delivering industry-specific information, access to funding opportunities, and ensuring the northern Michigan voice is represented in reopening discussions.

About the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance:

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is a coalition of chambers and economic development organizations including the Alpena Area Chamber, Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce, Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce, Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Traverse Connect, Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Boyne Area Chamber, East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce, Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce, Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, & Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The Alliance exists to advocate for rural northern Michigan and move forward rural-centric business policy.


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