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Michigan Legislature Reviewing Bills for Social Districts, Relaxing Alcohol Rules

June 12, 2020
Margaritas Delivered to Your Doorstep. How Soon?

Like several other states, Michigan is considering easing liquor laws to allow patrons to take cocktails and alcoholic beverages throughout special social districts outside restaurants and bars.

It’s all part of an effort to help restaurants and bars do business while adhering to reduced capacities and social distancing measures in place under the MI Safe Start Plan.

As the summer season ramps up, the question for many Michiganders is: When might we see expanded outdoor seating, cocktails to go, and margaritas delivered to your doorstep?

The Legislature is considering several bills related to this issue in the coming weeks.

Cocktails to Go, Doorstep Delivery – Could Be Only a Few Weeks Away

Despite the fact that bars and restaurants originally asked to expand selling liquor options in March without success, the effort appears now to be picking up steam in the Legislature.

Making cocktails to go a reality requires the Legislature to update the existing statute that applies to growlers at breweries and bottles of wine.

A bill to do so is moving through the Legislature now and could be voted on and passed in the next couple of weeks. That means you might be able to get your favorite cocktail to go or delivered to your door before the end of June.

Social Districts Allowing Open Alcoholic Beverages – Best Case Scenario Sometime in July

Creating special social districts is a little bit more complicated. If the Legislature opts to pass legislation doing so, the Liquor Control Commission would still need to establish a licensing process.

Then designating the social district would fall to the local government, providing for local control and adding a layer of approvals after the Legislature acts.

Expect this process to go into July if not beyond given local legislative bodies often meet less frequently in the summer.

 Bill Would Increase Liquor Discounts to Retailers from 17% to 30%

The state previously reduced its markup on liquor by 17% to ease the financial burden on bars and restaurants. New legislation, if passed, would increase that discount to 30% through Dec. 31, 2021 when it would then return to 17%.

Bars/Restaurants May Be Able to Purchase More Alcohol Directly from Retailers

Other legislation would allow bars and restaurants to purchase more alcohol directly from retailers, meaning it could bypass the purchasing process from the Liquor Control Commission and more quickly replace a liquor if it runs out. Under current law, this is already allowed, but the cap would be increased from 108 liters a year to 120 liters.

Small Distilleries Could Be Allowed to Sell Directly to Retailers

Other legislation being considered would allow small distilleries to sell up to 13,500 liters of spirits directly to a retailer in a calendar year. While this legislation loses some urgency with restaurants and bars opening on June 8, it may still move forward in the coming weeks.