Michigan restaurants move to dismiss federal suit challenging indoor-dining halt

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan restaurants filed Friday to dismiss a federal lawsuit against the state that sought to overturn an epidemic order banning indoor dining at restaurants and bars. 

The epidemic order was extended Friday through Jan. 15, which would mean a 58-day closure for indoor dining services from what was supposed to be a three-week "Pause to Save Lives."

A message is posted on the sign at Kuhnhenn Brewing Co.,36000 Groebeck in Clinton Twp., Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

A couple of hours after the order was extended Friday, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, two hospitality groups and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the case against the state without prejudice, according to court records.

The filing still needs to be accepted by U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney of Michigan's Western District. 

The filing lists no reason for the dismissal. 

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association declined comment Friday, citing the pending dismissal. Attorney General Dana Nessel's office referred questions to the association.

Maloney earlier this month denied the association's request for an immediate halt to the Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order after finding the group was unlikely to succeed in its case. 

"Plaintiffs complain that they are being treated differently than similar businesses, but ... individuals can patronize the businesses that remain open while wearing a mask," Maloney wrote, adding that other food-service businesses that remain open such as food courts and airports are "transitional" and don't foster lingering diners.

Still, hearings in the case were proceeding as recently as Monday and Maloney had expressed interest in certifying two questions to the Michigan Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the law underpinning the epidemic orders and its application in recent weeks. 

At the time of Maloney's Dec. 2 denial, the restaurant association said it would next turn its attention to preventing an extension of the three-week pause. The association was unsuccessful and the order banning indoor dining was extended twice, once on Dec. 7 through Dec. 20 and a second time Friday through Jan. 15. 

The second extension continued the ban on indoor dining, while lifting it on other entertainment facilities where patrons could still wear masks such as casinos and stadiums. 

But Whitmer said Friday that "if we substantially sustain our progress, we will seriously consider lifting our protocols sooner.” 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

Staff writer Riley Beggin contributed.