The Need to Know When Restaurants Reopen on February 1

The Order Comes With New Guidelines for Bars, Restaurants and Patrons



The months-long process of opening and closing various business sectors continues, as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the resumption of face-to-face indoor dining in restaurants across the state.

Starting February 1, Michigan restaurants will allow indoor visitors with some new guidelines that will be outlined below. The order comes as a “fact-based approach” from MDHHS, based on hospital capacity, case rates and positive testing rates across the state.

In a release, MDHHS cites a seven-week decline in hospital capacity dedicated to COVID, — which peaked at 19.6 percent on December 4 — a current case rate of 225 cases per million — which peaked at 740 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14 — and a declining positivity rate of 6.8 percent, as matters contributing to the decision to reopen indoor dining in restaurants. It’s unclear as to what effect the resumption of indoor dining will have on these numbers.

The pause has worked. The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and hospitals have dramatically reduced cases and we have saved lives. Now, we are confident that starting February 1, restaurants can resume indoor dining with safety measures in place,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Michigan continues to be a national leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way. One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together.

“We are pleased to see the improvements in case rates, hospitalizations, and percent positivity that have allowed us to reopen more activities,” added Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “However, we must remain vigilant, especially since we now have a new, more easily transmitted variant of this virus present in our state. This is not the time to let our guard down and Michiganders should minimize their risk by avoiding gatherings, wearing masks properly, social distancing, and making a plan to get their vaccine when it is their turn.”


For starters, if you’re worried about catching COVID, conscious of stopping the spread, or worried for the well-being of dining workers, then indoor dining may not be for you. Since you you cannot eat and wear a mask at the same time, the practice still poses a risk given you’re in a setting that may not have ample ventilation.

But, for those looking to take part in indoor dining, there are some changes and precations that include limited seating and capacity, a curfew, and ventilation standards.

Starting on February 1, restaurants and bars will be allowed to seat at 25 percent capacity with up to 100 people, with tables placed at least six feet apart and no more than six people to a table. Bars will only be allowed operation until 10 pm as part of a new curfew, while contact information must be collected as part of contact tracing efforts.

Businesses may also become certified under the new MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program, a process that will allow them to have their ventilation systems inspected by the state to ensure they are optimizing airflow. Once certified under the program, the Michigan.gov/COVIDSaferDining website will feature the business as a safe spot to eat, while business owners will receive a copy of their certification to share with patrons.

With residential and nonresidential gatherings still limited to 10 people, or two households, MDHHS is still urging individuals to avoid indoor gatherings as much as possible. Should any gathering be needed, the state is continuing to urge Michiganders to mask up as part of the #MaskUpMichigan initiative.

“Today’s announcement is possible because of our progress over the last two months,” shared Robert Gordon, MDHHS director, while commenting on the state’s progress over the past few months. “Even so, the science is clear that unmasked, indoor activities like dining and drinking are still a source of high risk around COVID-19. The safest course remains to support your favorite restaurant with carryout, delivery, or outdoor dining. If individuals choose to eat out, there are two things they can do to make it much safer: go out only with members of their own household and choose a restaurant participating in the MI COVID-19 Safer Dining certification program.”

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