Michigan to buy back liquor as Gov. Whitmer extends restrictions

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LANSING — Michigan will offer cash-strapped bars and restaurants relief by buying back their liquor inventory during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order authorizing the program in a flurry of moves late Monday.

She also delayed the expiration of valid driver’s licenses and state ID cards to June 30. And she extended a measure to keep intact a prohibition against dine-in service at restaurants and to continue the closure of many places of public accommodation through April 30, when her stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire.

Michigan’s 8,500 on-premises liquor licensees will have until Friday to request that the Liquor Control Commission buy back spirits purchased before March 16. Participating businesses are expected to keep their bottles for now to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Licensees will be able to buy the liquor again for at least 90 days after the states of emergency and disaster end.

Whitmer said the program will help bars and restaurants “weather the storm through this challenging time in our history.”

Meanwhile, Oakland County said workers at businesses deemed essential will be required to wear face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

The policy, however, won’t be enforced until April 27 so businesses can acquire the protection, county Executive David Coulter said. Face masks already are being worn at many businesses.

The order applies to grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses with close contact with the public. Oakland County residents make up 20% of Michigan’s COVID-19 cases.

Henry Ford Health System reported 655 COVID-19 patients at its hospitals in southeastern Michigan, a slight rise from Monday. More than 1,200 people have been discharged in the last 30 days.

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