Will COVID-19 cases linked to crowded bars lead to closure order?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bars across the state of Michigan remain open for now, but there are fears a second shutdown could be pending.

During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said a recent spike in cases in the East Lansing area was partially spurred by an outbreak of cases linked to a popular bar in the college town. The outbreak at Harper’s Pub is now up to 118 cases, and anyone who visited the establishment between June 12 and June 20 has been told to self-quarantine.

Whitmer used the outbreak as a warning for what she says could happen anywhere.

“This is not unique to this establishment, it’s not unique to East Lansing,” she said. “It’s not unique to Michigan. This is happening across the country, but we have to learn from this instance here in Michigan.”

Meanwhile, the bar and restaurant scene in Grand Rapids has already had a few scares of its own. Over the weekend, popular downtown Grand Rapids venue The B.O.B. announced it was temporarily closing after one of its workers tested positive for coronavirus.

An official with the Kent County Health Department told News 8 that officials asked one downtown establishment, Social House Tavern, to close after receiving reports that the venue was packed and social distancing wasn’t being practiced.

On Monday, Social House Tavern posted about the incident on its Facebook page.

“We hope the temporary lack of judgement by a few patrons, and our failure to properly handle that situation can be forgiven,” the post stated in part.

News 8 reached out to Social House Tavern for comment, but didn’t hear back Tuesday.

Social House Tavern in Grand Rapids. (June 30, 2020)

Other downtown bars like Flanagan’s Irish Pub have seemed to have better luck when it comes to crowd control. Flanagan’s Bar Manager Ryan Tolliver said staff has been committed to following the state’s safety rules as much as possible.

“Technically our capacity is normally 200 (people), so with 50% capacity we’re at 100,” Tolliver said. “We’ve only gotten that busy one night and when we got to 80 people, we cut the door at 80 people to make sure we’re on the safe side of things.”

A sign at Flanagan’s Irish Pub in Grand Rapids tells patrons they must wear a mask. (June 30, 2020)

Tolliver admitted it does get more tricky to enforce social distancing later at night when the bar scene picks up.

“There was a couple people we’ve had to ask to leave at that point because they were not following the social distancing rules and things like that,” Tolliver said.

Patrons at Flanagan’s Irish Pub in Grand Rapids. (June 30, 2020)

A spokesperson for the Kent County Health Department said officials are going to continue working with bars and their partners in law enforcement to make sure establishments are following the rules. If an establishment is in violation of the mandated restrictions, the department will ask them to close until management can come up with a corrective plan of action to do so.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES

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