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Marquette Co. Health Department explains interpretation of new coronavirus order for indoor bars

The order from Gov. Whitmer has raised questions as bars remain open.
Generic Alcohol Picture from MGN online.
Generic Alcohol Picture from MGN online.(MGN)
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:57 AM EDT
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NEGAUNEE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The new executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that limits indoor bar service in Upper Michigan has raised questions.

Whitmer’s order, which aims to curb the spread of coronavirus, took effect at 12:01 a.m. July 31. Some Marquette County bars closed while others remained open.

The Marquette County Health Department explained how it’s interpreting the order.

How is MCHD addressing E.O. 2020-160 with regard to bars operating?:

1. MCHD continues to perform inspections of bars citing violations where appropriate.

2. MCHD fields specific questions from bar operators providing operational guidance on a daily basis.

3. MCHD will respond to and fully investigate specific complaints regarding violations of E.O. 2020-160 on an individual basis.

Understanding the requirements of E.O. 2020-160:

1. Bars are NOT required to close.

2. Only bars that have generated revenue of more than 70% in gross receipts in 2019 from alcohol sales are prohibited from serving for indoor consumption.

3. All bars can remain open to serve for outdoor or off premises consumption.

4. E.O. 2020-160 does not specify a specific source from which revenue must be generated in consideration of the 70% gross revenue. The gross revenue figure includes revenue from all sources. This can include the sale of food products, apparel, Keno tickets and other potential sources of revenue.

5. Many bars claim greater than 30% from other revenue sources such as food sales and keno machines. Even if this figure were not met, they could remain open for off premise or outdoor consumption.

6. Some brew pubs are actually canning and bottling facilities that wholesale alcohol to grocery stores and other retail outlets. In these instances, on-site consumption of alcohol is nowhere near 70% of the brewpubs revenue as the bottling and canning operations is considered revenue outside of this figure.

The Bottom Line (from MCHD):

E.O. 2020-160 is not what it appears on the surface. The only way to determine a specific violation of E.O. 2020-160 is to investigate on a case by case basis. This may in some instance require a financial audit of 2019 accounting documents prior to making a determination. However, even if a facility is in violation of E.O. 2020-160 the facility would not be required to close because they could still legally sell alcohol for outdoor or off premise consumption and can also continue to sell food, keno tickets and other revenue generating items.

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