Michigan Legislature OKs cocktails to go to help restaurants
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — People could order cocktails for pickup or delivery from Michigan bars and restaurants through 2025 under a bill that won final approval Wednesday and will be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The “cocktails-to-go” legislation is part of a package that includes a temporary cut in state liquor prices to help businesses hurting during the coronavirus pandemic. Local governments would be able to designate “social districts” where people could drink alcohol outside in common areas.
The state already lets bars and restaurants sell unopened beer and wine. The liquor industry said more than 30 states allow restaurants or bars to sell cocktails, liquor or both to go.
“The Legislature is throwing a much-needed economic lifeline to Michigan restaurants and bars,” said David Wojnar, vice president of state government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
All but two lawmakers supported the main bill. It was opposed in committee by groups that favor limiting alcohol. They said underage drinkers could consume alcohol left at a door and expressed concerns about the ability to monitor binge drinking if customers can leave a bar and drink in common areas.
Under one bill, on-premises licensees would, for a year, get a break on prices from the Liquor Control Commission. It marks up liquor 65% and gives businesses a 17% discount. The discount would rise to 23%, cutting into the state’s profit that goes to help fund general government services. That bill may win Senate passage on Thursday after the House changed the proposed break from 30%.
Restaurants and bars closed to dine-in customers in mid-March under a Whitmer order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Restaurants, which could stay open for takeout and delivery, began reopening their tables in northern Michigan on May 22 and in the rest of the state on June 8.