New Limits on Gatherings and the Closing of Certain Bars & Remote Work Clarification

On July 29, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Orders 2020-160 and 2020-161, amending Michigan’s Safe Start Order and issuing revised workplace safeguards. Under the Safe Start Order, starting July 31, 2020, statewide indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and bars will be closed for indoor service across the state, including in Regions 6 and 8. On July 31, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-162, amending order 2020-160, and clarifies that businesses in Regions 6 and 8 remain subject to the prior standard on remote work (more below).

Clarification on Remote Work

Amendment to Executive Order 2020-160 (emphasis added): “The restriction described in section 1 of Executive Order 2020-160 does not apply in Regions 6 and 8. Instead, in Regions 6 and 8, any work that is capable of being performed remotely (i.e., without the worker leaving his or her home or place of residence) should be performed remotely.”

This means that the standard for remote work, “should be performed remotely,” has not changed in regions 6 & 8.

What are indoor gatherings?

Per order 2020-160 section 7(a) (emphasis added): “If it is indoors, the gathering or event does not exceed 10 people […]”

What is not an indoor gathering?

Section 7(b): “Subsection (a) does not apply to the incidental gathering of persons in a shared space, including an airport, bus station, factory floor, restaurant, shopping mall, public pool, or workplace.”

How do I determine if my bar must shut down indoor bar operations?

Order 2020-160 affects (emphasis added):

“5. Bars. Food service establishments, as defined in section 1107(t) of the Michigan Food Law, 2000 PA 92, as amended, MCL 289.1107(t), that hold on-premises retailer licenses to sell alcoholic beverages must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages.

(a) Food service establishments that are closed for indoor service but open for outdoor service must prohibit patrons from entering the establishment, except to walk through in order to access the outdoor area, to leave the establishment, or
to use the restroom.

(b) For purposes of calculating its percentage of gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages under section 1, a food service establishment must use:

(1) Gross receipts from 2019; or

(2) If the establishment was not in operation in 2019, gross receipts from the date the establishment opened in 2020.”

Other Important Changes

Per order 2020-160 under section 8(b), outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people may be held, with precautions in place. Those precautions include:

“(1) The gathering or event is designed to ensure that persons not part of the same household maintain six feet of distance from one another;

(2) Persons not part of the same household maintain six feet of distance from one another;”

All businesses must now follow safety protocol outlined in order 2020-161. 

New Mask Enforcement Requirements for Businesses

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-147, which reiterates that individuals are required to wear a face covering whenever they are in an indoor public space and crowded outdoor spaces. Most significantly, the order requires any business that is open to the public to refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering.  As the order states, “No shirts, no shoes, no mask—no service.” The requirements for businesses take effect at 12:01 am on Monday, July 13. Individual requirements within the order, such as wearing a mask in any indoor public space, take effect immediately.

Under the order, businesses that are open to the public must refuse entry and service to individuals who fail to comply, and must post signage at all entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside. Those who are exempt from wearing a mask in Michigan businesses include people younger than five years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment. Further limited exemptions are located under section 2 of the order (more information below). A willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty, but no term of confinement may be imposed on individuals who violate the mask requirement.

For the business community, on page 4, section 3 the order states (emphasis added):

“3. To protect workers, shoppers, and the community, no business that is open to the public may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises unless the customer is wearing a face covering as required by this order.

a. Businesses that are open to the public must post signs at entrance(s) instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity may, in its discretion, require such businesses to post signs developed and made available by the Department, or conforming to requirements established by the Department.

b. A department or agency that learns that a licensee is in violation of this section will consider whether the public health, safety or welfare requires summary, temporary suspension of the business’s license to operate (including but not limited to a liquor license) under section 92 of the Administrative Procedures Act of 1969, 1969 PA 306, as amended, MCL 24.292(2).”


Under section 2 of the order, there are limited exemptions to wearing face coverings:

“2. The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to individuals who:

a. Are younger than five years old, though children two years old and older are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering, pursuant to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”);

b. Cannot medically tolerate a face covering;

c. Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment;

d. Are exercising when wearing a face covering would interfere in the activity;

e. Are receiving a service for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;

f. Are entering a business or are receiving a service and are asked to temporarily
remove a face covering for identification purposes;

g. Are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;

h. Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;

i. Are officiating at a religious service; or

j. Are giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.”

As more resources become available, we will work to provide them to our business community.

Printable Signage Resource

Some printable signage for businesses in northern Michigan may be found here.

Alliance Advocates for COVID-19 Recovery Funding

This week, the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continued COVID-19 recovery advocacy with a formal request to the House and Senate Appropriations Chairs to fund Pure Michigan, Going Pro, and to remain committed to investing in roads and bridges in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. In the letter, the Alliance outlined how these programs are essential to Michigan’s economic recovery.

Pure Michigan has proven to provide a significant return on investment, returning nearly nine dollars in state tax revenue for every dollar invested in advertising. During recovery, the Alliance believes that we should rely on programs that have proven their worth and value.

As our state grapples with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, the Alliance identified Going Pro as a program to train our workforce to enter trades that will continue pushing us into the 21st-century job market. Going Pro provides job training grants to businesses to support training for high-demand, skilled trades industries and can support the reinvention and diversification of our economies.

While our entire state continues to get back to work, our roads and bridges will take people to and from employment and bring commerce and out-of-state visitors, generating economic activity in all regions of Michigan. Northern Michigan continues to advocate for a road funding model that accounts for rural highways, arterials, and connectors that feed the region’s economy.

The Alliance also worked with fellow organizations to pen a letter to the Governor and House and Senate Appropriations Chairs, further underscoring the importance of Pure Michigan. Alliance and members included, 22 organizations supported the continuation of Pure Michigan funding to promote our state as a destination where communities and businesses are safely reopening.

In other news, this week, the Legislature passed two bills supported by the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and numerous chambers from across Michigan. House Bills 5781 & 5811 allow for social districts and liquor to go and are on their way to the Governor. House Bill 5781, sponsored by State Rep. Webber, allows local governments to designate a social district containing a commons area where restaurants and bars could obtain a permit so patrons could consume alcohol in these commons areas, with certain conditions. House Bill 5811, sponsored by Rep. Anthony, would allow a qualified licensee to fill and sell qualified containers with liquor for consumption off the premises, with certain conditions.

Also recently passed by the Legislature and on their way to the Governor are House Bills 5761 and 5810, both sponsored by Rep. James Lower. These bills allow qualifying property owners who have experienced economic hardship because of COVID-19 until March 1, 2021 to pay their summer 2020 property tax. Interest in the delinquent property taxes would not accrue until June 1, 2021.

Businesses will have more time to pay sales, use, and withholding taxes under Senate Bills 935, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Daley; 936, sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad; and 937, sponsored by northern Michigan Sen. Curt Vanderwall.  The bills allow businesses negatively impacted by the crisis to make March-August SUW payments over six months. These bills are on their way to the Governor.

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