Michigan restaurants and bars will be allowed to increase patron attendance from 25% capacity to 50% capacity, beginning Friday. The current 10 p.m. curfew will also be moved up to 11 p.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement at a news conference conducted Tuesday afternoon.

Reporters, however, were more interested in the recent revelations the governor used taxpayer dollars to pay former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon $155,506 as part of a separation package.

When asked if the payout to Gordon was “hush money” by a reporter, the governor said, “I really bristle at that characterization.” She insisted that such agreements were common in both the public and private sector and argued Gordon’s late January exit wasn’t tied to any improprieties.

The nature of the privacy agreement, Whitmer said, prevented her from commenting further after a reporter asked why a private monetary settlement was required in the first place after Gordon reportedly submitted his resignation without coercion from the governor.

The attendance rules are issued and enforced by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The department and governor’s office ignited controversy when it was revealed on Monday that the abrupt departure of former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon on Jan. 22 also resulted in a secret payout of $155,506 in taxpayer dollars.

The Detroit News reported the payout, which it uncovered through its own Freedom of Information Act investigation.

“In Michigan, state government cannot be permitted to use tax dollars to facilitate coverups,” Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “Governor Whitmer’s use of public funds as hush money is outrageous and taxpayers deserve to know the truth behind this shocking revelation.”

The increased patron capacity comes a month earlier than originally announced. The current rule limiting restaurant and bar attendance at 25% capacity had been in effect since Feb. 1, and wasn’t set to expire until March 29.

Under the revised MDHHS orders:

  • Indoor entertainment venues are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, up to 300 people.
  • Gyms and group fitness facilities are allowed to operate at 30% capacity.
  • Retail facilities are allowed to open at 50% capacity.
  • Casinos are allowed to open at 30% capacity.
  • Stadiums and arenas will be allowed to host 375 people if the capacity is under 10,000 people; and no more than 750 people if the capacity is over 10,000 people.

Updated residential care facilities may allow up to two people per resident, but indoor and outdoor visitation will be allowed at long-term care facilities
“Today’s announcement by Gov. Whitmer is woefully inadequate, ensures we remain completely out of step regionally and nationally, and will drive more Michiganders out of their jobs and out of our state,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said in a statement.

“The governor continues to claim her decisions are based on data and science, but she refuses to actually share the data or science she’s using. Without transparency, her orders look less like science and more like control. Michiganders deserve better,” Shirkey said.

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