Northern Michigan businesses ask Whitmer to increase capacity limits

Oct 1, 2020

Credit Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance

Cold fall and winter weather may be the death knell for some northern Michigan bars and restaurants, worry several northern Michigan chambers of commerce.


Currently, the state requires these restaurants only seat 50% occupancy indoors, while bars can’t serve any patrons inside. Over the summer, the venues overcame those limits by serving more people outside. 

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance says its network of 7,000 businesses are concerned if they can’t let in more customers, some may not survive. On Sept. 30, the group sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer asking her to up capacity limits for northern Michigan restaurants, bars, meeting and banquet centers, as long as the area stays below a 3% positive test rate over an extended period.

Kristie Sieloff, director of government relations for the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and Traverse Connect, says by that metric, the UP (Region 8) wouldn’t be able to increase their capacity yet, as the positive test rate there is 4.9% as of Oct. 1.

“We are open to continue discussions with the administration on what [changing indoor capacity limits] would look like,” she says. “We want to make sure we are taking a data-informed approach.”

Deputy Press Secretary Chelsea Lewis says Gov. Whitmer does not have a response yet to the letter, though Lewis says the governor is “considering all options when it comes to how best to protect Michiganders, our public health, and our economy.”


“[Gov. Whitmer] continues to work closely with medical experts like Dr. Joneigh Khaldun to determine what path will work best for each region of the state when it comes to reengagement. We must remain flexible during this ongoing pandemic and move backward if needed, but we understand that no one wants to move back,” Lewis said in an emailed statement.