by Scott McClallen
Four business groups sent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a letter asking to reopen industries that have been closed for five months, although they’re open in certain parts of Michigan and surrounding states.
After five months with no revenue and continued fixed costs, some gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Leaders of the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Chamber, The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and the Detroit Regional Chamber urged Whitmer to meet with those groups to find a way to reopen safely.
“Michigan is one of a handful of states that has not allowed these sectors to open in any capacity,” the letter reads. “These businesses have been completely closed after months of the public health emergency, while still facing property tax bills, rent, payroll and other expenses.”
The groups said the restrictions have resulted in permanent closures, including over 1,000 layoffs by the YMCA in Grand Rapids.
Some gyms have reopened illegally, facing the decision to either lose their business to bankruptcy or risk fines and a possible state shutdown order.
Conquest Fitness in DeWitt and Bath Townships have been open for weeks.
“We ultimately realized two things: We’ve been Covid-ready and waiting to reopen for months, and if we waited much longer, we would no longer be in business,” Director of Operations Andre Hutson told the Lansing State Journal.
However, many other businesses, including casinos and strip clubs, have been cleared to reopen.
“We believe that if industries like restaurants, public swimming pools, casinos and others can find a way to safely open in some capacity, we can also find a way to safely open gyms, theaters, bowling alleys and other industries,” the leaders wrote.
AMC Theatres last week announced it was reopening about 400 locations across the country within the next month, but only in one of its 13 Michigan locations, in Traverse City, a region with fewer restrictions.
State data as of July 31 shows that 112 of Michigan’s total COVID-19 outbreaks are tied to long-term care facilities, while combined bars, retail and restaurants were linked to 10 outbreaks.
The business groups asked for property tax deferrals.
“Property taxes are often the largest bill a business receives,” they wrote. “This is a threat to the long-term viability of many businesses, and they should not be forced to bear the additional burden of interest, penalties and fees on property taxes they cannot pay due to their closure.”
The leaders urged Whitmer to work with the Legislature to pass laws protecting businesses against “needless” COVID-19 lawsuits if they take “reasonable” safety measures.
“We ask that you and your Administration find ways to give businesses, especially those that remain closed, a fighting chance – and soon,” the letter reads.
Whitmer has said she might give those industries more information about possibly reopening next week.
Some bowling alley owners say they will go bankrupt if they don’t open by Labor Day.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.