Election season has been past us for over a week now (and this news item is slightly older than that), but as a Michigander and beer lover, it’s relevant nonetheless. Jennifer Granholm, the outgoing Governor of the State of Michigan recently vetoed a change to the state’s liquor control laws that would have allowed Sunday morning liquor sales. She didn’t agree with a trio of provisions also included in the bill:
- Allowing package liquor stores to give free samples of beer and wine, up to 9oz. in size.
- Allow restaurants to provide their own alcohol to off-site catering events (presumably purchased at wholesale). They previously had to buy from retailers.
- Allowing culinary arts programs at universities and community colleges to apply for a limited liquor license. Granholm said this provision may have been unconstitutional.
All three provisions seem reasonable to me – though I’m no law-talker, and if the reason for prohibiting the third provision listed is unconstitutional, then so be it. I also understand if retail liquor outlets pushed back against the second provision, unfair though the current state of affairs may seem.
My biggest issue is with the first taboo provision, about in-store sampling. As regular readers may be aware, I recently returned from a trip to Pennsylvania – a state notorious for its unfairly puritanical liquor laws (you literally cannot buy alcohol in a grocery store. What the hell?). Even in the Quaker State, sampling in stores and bars is allowed, and for it to be prohibited in a state that is supposedly beer-friendly is ridiculous. Granholm stated that 9 ounces was too large a sample size, but this is political posturing. The sampling itself, and not the size, was her issue – and that ain’t right.
Fortunately for denizens of (and visitors to) The Great Beer State, a new version of the Sunday Sales bill is close to passing. The 52-page bill includes some of the original provisions – though definitely NOT the culinary school exception – and has Granholm’s support. For a mere $160 a year, outlets can now get an extra 5 hours of sale every Sunday morning.
Merchants without liquor licenses or on-premises consumption can also hold tastings (3oz. samples, and no more than three per customer in a given 24-hour period, a specific “tasting license” must be granted by the state), a step in the right direction.
To read the full text, head to House Bill 6224.