One of the biggest nights of the year for celebratory gatherings is right around the corner, but how that may benefit the local bars and restaurants that recently had dine-in restrictions eased is yet to be seen.
Sports fans may celebrate this month as the kickoff to the prep and collegiate March Madness basketball tournament; however, March is also noted for the celebration of all things Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. According to the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, March 17 festivities rank third in alcohol sales in the state behind New Year’s Eve and the day before Thanksgiving.
Restaurants along with bars and taverns throughout the state were dealt a financial blow when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer implemented a ban on dine-in service in March 2020. Many pivoted to takeout and delivery options, but there were still an estimated 2,000 restaurants that closed for good.
Licensed establishments were prohibited from allowing in-person dining and gatherings, as defined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s gatherings and facemask order.
On Feb. 1 — 75 days after reinstituted restrictions were implemented amid a surge in COVID-19 — restaurants and bars were allowed to offer indoor dining at 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 people. Restaurants must close by 10 p.m. each day and tables must be 6 feet apart with no more than six people per table, according to a news release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“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,” Whitmer said in the release. “Now, we are confident that starting Feb. 1, restaurants can resume indoor dining with safety measures in place.”
During the ban, many Michiganders missed out on the traditional revelry of holidays and events such as Independence Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. St. Patrick’s Day may one of the early tests to how residents respond to the easing of restrictions.
Studies such as the one by grocery delivery company Mercato found demand spiked throughout 2020 for alcohol as a part of delivery orders; however, if that trend will translate into an immediate boon to newly reopened bars and restaurants remains uncertain.
An October study by DrugAbuse.com showed that 25% of Michigan residents were drinking more during the lockdown, but the same study showed that nearly 80% of those surveyed nationally would be inclined to socialize at home with friends than go out when bars reopened.