If this bill passes, your favorite bars and restaurants could be pouring you drinks to carry out.
LANSING, MI — What would help life feel a little normal again?
The bar, for starters.
But with Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders, bar and sit-down services at Michigan restaurants have been unavailable since March. New legislation hopes to change that.
Michigan State Senators Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced bills on Thursday that would allow for open alcohol containers in designated public spaces.
“I think this is a huge step forward into how we can start to get back out there and back out there safely,” McMorrow said in a recorded statement Thursday. “And keep some of our favorite places, our bars and our restaurants, surviving through this.”
McMorrow has proposed Senate Bill 938 which would allow to-go cocktails from bars and restaurants that have been closed for in-person dining since March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Current state laws only allow Michiganders to take closed or corked containers of beer and wine home from local restaurants.
The new bill wouldn’t turn Michigan into New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street, as it would require containers to be clearly labeled to indicate that they contain alcohol, cannot have straw holes, must be “clean, refillable and resealable” and cannot exceed one gallon.
“For restaurants, these are high-ticketed items,” McMorrow said. “Alcohol sales usually make up about one-third of the cash that restaurants bring in. And this would also allow restaurants to keep more people on staff and more people employed.”
Meanwhile, State Senator Irwin has proposed Senate Bill 939 which would allow for municipalities to designate “social districts,” or areas where people can carry open containers and drink alcohol in public.
Local governments would be required to clearly mark the areas and only allow for sales and drinking during normal business hours.
The proposed bill would also require businesses to purchase a $300 social district permit, to only serve their drinks out of containers that are marked with their logo or another trademark that is unique to their business. They must also ensure that customers don’t leave the designated area with open containers.
The two Senate bills have been packaged together and are referred to as the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
The House is already on the same track with the introduction of House Bill 5781 which is already in the House Regulatory Reform Committee. It was just introduced Tuesday.
Other states have successfully passed similar legislation in the past. Louisiana and Memphis, Tennessee, have zoned public areas for open containers, mostly for their popular Bourbon Street and Beale Street tourist areas. Most recently, Pennsylvania passed legislation allowing for statewide to-go cocktails during the pandemic, according to a Keystone Newsroom report.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula bars and restaurants were able to reopen Friday as their coronavirus infection curves flatten. The introduced legislation may help business owners throughout the state to keep their doors open amid the economic burdens of the pandemic.