Wow, this year is certainly not turning out how we planned or could have imagined. Unfortunately, I find that it is too easy to focus on the challenges and struggles during this incredibly uncertain time. So, for this article, I’d like to pause and change that focus to some positivity. I’d like to acknowledge the incredible work being done by the staff of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) on behalf of all Michigan restaurants and hotels.
Since the onset of this crisis, the MRLA has worked tirelessly, advocating for the needs of Michigan’s hospitality industry. Some early successes include getting a deferment of our sales tax payments owed, working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to create emergency relief grants and loans for small businesses, and working to create a “hold harmless” provision for our unemployment ratings. In addition, the MRLA successfully advocated for numerous changes to the liquor laws such as the liquor buyback program, cocktails to-go, and social zones.
Understanding that our survival was dependent on our ability to reopen our restaurants, the MRLA created the “Roadmap to Reopening” for restaurant guidance and "A Safe Welcome Back" for hotel guidance. These comprehensive documents were created based on leading public health officials and the Governor’s Michigan Employment Relations Commissions workgroup. It also took guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies. These documents were instrumental in influencing the governor’s office to reopen restaurants.
I am sure you saw the regular flow of MRLA emails into your inbox these last few months. As information developed daily (and sometimes hourly!) it became clear that our members needed one place to access the latest news and resources relevant to their operations. The MRLA provided that though email messaging and frequent website updates.
As devastating as this COVID-19 crisis has been on the hospitality industry, it has been equally devastating to the Michiganders who work for our businesses. Shortly after the shutdown in March, the MRLA recognized a need to help hospitality workers. They began fundraising and advocating to create an employee relief fund. Four hundred thousand dollars has been raised and another $2.5 million appropriated to support hospitality team members.
The fight for our survival isn’t over. New challenges seem to arise daily as we try to operate our businesses with never-before-seen regulations and requirements, balanced with a passionate desire to keep our team members and communities safe. With that said, I am incredibly grateful for the commitment the entire team at the MRLA has shown to the success of its members. We are fortunate for the leadership they provided through advocacy and education, benefiting our members and the industry as a whole. As a restaurateur myself, I am sincerely thankful.