Whitmer administration rescinds rule she ignored at bar

National/World

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday, May 24, 2021. It was the first day Steelcase is having many of their employees back in the office since the coronavirus pandemic started, thanks to the new MIOSHA rules that changed today, allowing non-essential workers to come back to offices. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Monday rescinded a rule that limits restaurant tables to no more than six people, a day after she apologized for ignoring the COVID-19 regulation while gathering with friends at an East Lansing bar.

The Democratic governor has said tables at the Landshark Bar & Grill were pushed together as more people arrived in her party of roughly a dozen fully vaccinated people.

A revised gatherings and face mask order, issued by the state health department, no longer includes the six-patrons-per-table provision, effective June 1. Whitmer had announced last week the planned easing of capacity restrictions on June 1 but had not specified if other changes would be coming in the new order, which was released as expected Monday.

The governor also signed a revised workplace safety order that immediately no longer requires 6 feet (2 meters) of separation between tables.

“It was an honest mistake. I have apologized for it,” Whitmer told reporters.

Violations of coronavirus orders are enforced against employers, not customers. State regulators have fined more than 280 employers.

Asked if the Landshark should be fined and, if not, if she would lift fines on other businesses, the governor said the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has “specifically not gone forward and penalized businesses that are trying to do the right thing. It’s those that have flouted and put people’s safety at risk that are the most concerning.”

Later Monday, the Ingham County Health Department reported having received a complaint about a party at the Landshark exceeding six guests, but said it decided against enforcement action because “non-critical restaurant complaints are initially treated as education/consultation for the owner/manager.”

“The matter is considered resolved given conversation with the owner, and the owner’s assurance that parties will be limited to no more than six guests in the future,” spokeswoman Amanda Darche said. “There is no history of similar complaints with the Landshark.”

Republicans in the GOP-led Legislature said Whitmer should rescind fines that were levied on businesses. They previously complained that the six-person limit keeps large families from eating together.

Whitmer also has come under criticism for waiting to release information about a flight to see her elderly father in Florida, which occurred weeks before two top aides traveled south for spring break as COVID-19 cases soared.

In May 2020, Whitmer acknowledged that her husband dropped her name in an effort to get his boat in the water for Memorial Day weekend but said it simply was a “failed attempt at humor.”

“Michiganders deserve more than a hollow apology after a year of ‘rules for thee but not for me’ from their governor,” Tori Sachs, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, said in a statement. “We are calling on Whitmer to end her orders today, pardon every individual accused of a similar offense, rescind every violation issued by state and local officials, and refund every fine the state’s collected.”

Last week, Whitmer announced that capacity and crowd restrictions will be lifted July 1, citing vaccinations and new federal guidance on masks.

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