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Restaurants sue to stop dining ban

DETROIT (AP) — Just hours before another shutdown, a restaurant trade group sued Tuesday to try to stop a ban on indoor dining, attacking the latest restrictions from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration in response to a wave of coronavirus cases.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association said it made “several good-faith efforts” to reach a compromise with the state health department before the three-week policy was announced Sunday night. The group said its members could have further reduced risk while keeping their dining rooms open.

Without court intervention, the ban on indoor dining could lead to the “outright devastation” of restaurants and their thousands of employees, said Justin Winslow, the association’s president.

The new policy starts today. A similar ban lasted for nearly three months earlier this year.

“It is legal to get a tattoo or haircut but not eat a meal indoors at a restaurant,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge in western Michigan to grant an injunction allowing indoor dining and declare the health department’s order unconstitutional.

The lawsuit claims the order violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause and due process rights. There was no immediate comment from the health department.

Michigan’s seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases has more than doubled from 3,113 to 6,684 over two weeks. It is up nearly five-fold from 30 days ago.

The state reported another 7,400 confirmed new cases Tuesday and 79 deaths.

Health director Robert Gordon defended the dine-in prohibition as a way to prevent the spread of the virus among people without masks. He said it has worked in western Europe.

“The sooner Michiganders put a pause on indoor social gatherings, the more lives we will save, and the sooner we will be able to resume our normal social lives, including eating out, without fear,” Gordon said

Restaurants and bars weren’t the only targets in the latest round of restrictions. High schools and colleges must stop in-person classes and prep sports, including fall playoffs. Casinos, movie theaters and bowling alleys must close, and gyms can’t host group exercise.

“The situation has never been more dire,” Whitmer said.

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