Continues call for a pathway to full reopening

NORTHERN MI – The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continued their call on leaders to provide business owners with clarity by releasing a comprehensive plan to fully reopen bars and restaurants. Today, February 1, 2021, is the first day in 75 days that bars and restaurants are open for indoor dining, which is limited to 25 percent capacity. The Alliance represents 16 chambers and economic development organizations and over 7,000 member businesses from all across northern Michigan. 

“We’ve been waiting for this day, and we’re relieved to be reopening, but we owe clarity to our bars and restaurants on what will happen after February 21 when this current order expires,” said Stacie Bytwork, the chairperson of the Alliance and president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our bars and restaurants can’t keep operating three weeks at a time; this isn’t sustainable, and our job providers deserve more certainty.”

Michigan has lost nearly 3,000 restaurants since the onset of the pandemic, and the Alliance fears this trend will continue if a pathway to reopening isn’t outlined soon. The absence of a plan to fully reopen bars and restaurants has also complicated the hospitality industry’s operations.

“The uncertainty of these shutdowns has put pressure on all aspects of our operations. We weren’t able to keep all of our staff offering only takeout and lost good employees to other sectors. Now we will have to work on rebuilding our staff with this continued unpredictability,” said John McGee, co-owner of McGee’s, Harrington’s by the Bay, and Sorellina in the Grand Traverse region.

“We’re not reopening today, in part because we are concerned about restocking our restaurant only to close again,” said Connie Freiberg, chef/owner at Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar in Manistee.

The Alliance continues to offer its partnership to leaders across the state in crafting a comprehensive plan for a full reopening for bars and restaurants. The coalition is willing to safely meet with any leader who wants to formulate a real plan for reopening. The Alliance also urges northern Michigan to support their bars and restaurants in whatever way they feel comfortable.

“The restaurant community wants our customers and community to know that our industry is accustomed to strict health and safety protocol; COVID just adds a layer on top of our already comprehensive measures. We want our diners to know we are committed to their health and safety,” said John McGee.

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 primarily at the state level. The Alliance is engaged in delivering industry-specific information, access to funding opportunities, and ensuring the northern Michigan voice is represented in reopening discussions. More information on the Alliance’s latest work can be found at

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 of Commerce, 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, Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce, Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, 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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