Effort to Lower BAC Level Spreads to More States


Last year, Utah became the first state to lower the blood-alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05. Utah’s change was followed by a report from the National Academy of Sciences, calling for more states to follow suit. Now, several states are considering .05-level legislation, including Michigan, California, and New York. The OC Register’s editorial board weighed in one why a lower limit could be counterproductive:

Many people drink less while out at pubs or restaurants to avoid getting stopped for DUI. Such arrests can lead to jail stays, costly legal bills and the loss of one’s driver’s license. People who actually are impaired deserve those harsh punishments, but we fear that reducing the legal limit will mainly ensnare people who might not be impaired. The goal should be removing drunks from the road, not arresting non-drunks.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that 92 percent of alcohol-related fatalities involve a driver with a BAC of 0.10, according to Jackson Shedelbower of the American Beverage Institute. This confirms other information we’ve seen: the main drunken-driving dangers come from a relatively small group of heavy drinkers, not from people who have had a glass of wine or two with dinner…

We fear that lowering the BAC will simply make it easier for police agencies to set up checkpoints and then issue press releases about the growing number of drunken drivers that they have removed from the road. Yet it’s better to divert scarce resources to programs and policing efforts that capture the real scofflaws…

Read the rest here.

Michigan's Out-of-State Wine Rules Struck Down Again


In the landmark 2005 case of Granhom v. Heald, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Michigan’s law forbidding out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to Michigan consumers was unconstitutional. In the aftermath of the case, Michigan and other states interpreted the decision narrowly, declaring that while it applied to wineries, it did not apply to wine retailers. In a new lawsuit, a federal judge rejected this line of reasoning, as recapped by Wine Spectator:

After two years of legal volleys, lawyers challenging restrictions on wine direct shipping notched an important victory on Sept. 28. A federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the state's prohibition on direct-to-consumer wine shipping from out-of-state retailers is unconstitutional. If the ruling stands, Michigan residents will be able to purchase wine from stores anywhere in the country and have it shipped to their homes.

Robert Epstein, lawyer for Cap n' Cork, an Indiana chain of wine stores and plaintiffs in the case, hopes it is a bellwether for the shipping options of wine lovers across the country. "What has been accomplished is a first step in opening up shipping by retailers around the country to out-of-state clients," Epstein told Wine Spectator.

Lebamoff Enterprises, Inc. et al v. Snyder et al is one of three similar cases undertaken by the Indianapolis-based law firm Epstein, Cohen, Seif & Porter. The other two were filed in Illinois and Missouri. In each, the plaintiffs argue that state bans on out-of-state retailer direct shipping violate the U.S. Constitution's dormant Commerce Clause and Privileges and Immunities Clause…

Read more here.

Cities in Michigan Are Denying Liquor Licenses to Restaurants ... Because Reasons


States and municipalities often have formulas or limits that determine the number of liquor licenses they grant to local restaurants or stores. But city officials in Royal Oak, Michigan have decided that they can also reject licenses for restaurants that they just don't like. As Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center writes:

A city in Michigan is denying an alcohol license to a restaurant, apparently because government officials don’t like the style of service and type of food offered there.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Royal Oak city officials voted to deny an alcohol license to a Taco Bell Cantina “after police expressed opposition.”

Commissioner Kyle Dubuc said that the Taco Bell Cantina didn't fit with the city's vision for the bistro-style licenses.

"I would say more that when we think of unique concepts that would not include national fast-food chains," DuBuc said. "Think locally managed, local concepts that are bringing a kind of unique flavor and unique identity."

But the Taco Bell Cantina is locally owned — it’s just a franchise of Taco Bell. The “cantina” brand is an intentional effort to give the restaurant more of a local feel, and it has been rolled out in large cities throughout the U.S...

The entire piece is well worth a read

Michigan's Repeal of Half-Mile Liquor Store Rule Upheld by Court


As covered previously, Michigan's Liquor Control Commission recently repealed the state's half-mile liquor store rule, which prevented liquor stores in the state of Michigan from operating within a half-mile proximity of one another. Incumbent liquor store owners opposed the rule change, fearing increased competition. Ultimately, they filed a lawsuit to stop the reform, but a Michigan judge has now rejected the challenge, according to the Detroit News:

Michigan liquor store owners could face new competition next door as a result of a court ruling allowing the state to act on plans to lift a longstanding rule prohibiting licensees from operating within a half-mile of each other.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by an association representing existing liquor store owners, who argued they paid to buy their businesses and licenses with the expectation the proximity rule would stay in place.

“There is no property right to be free from increased competition,” Borrello wrote in a summary opinion and order siding with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. “Nor can plaintiff claim a property right in the continuation of an existing law or rule.”

The ruling is the latest development in a prolonged fight over the 1968 rule, which generally limits liquor stores from operating within 2,640 feet of each other. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission began efforts to rescind the law in 2017, calling it “protectionist and anti-competitive.”...

Read the whole piece here.

Upcoming Alcohol Policy Panel with R Street's Jarrett Dieterle


The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a state-based think tank in Michigan, is hosting a panel on the overregulation of alcohol on May 30th in Lansing, Michigan. R Street's Jarrett Dieterle will be one of the panelists, along with Prof. Anthony Davies of Duquesne University and former Michigan Liquor Control Commissioner Jim Storey. Here's the event description:

With backyard wineries, micro-distilleries and craft breweries popping up all over the place, Michigan is home to a diverse assortment of alcohol producers. But the local beer, wine and liquor industries have to navigate through a mountain of alcohol regulations, which are far above those used in most surrounding states.

Michigan’s rules about alcohol production, distribution and sales are complex. The state has restrictions on what can be produced, a strict monopoly system for distribution and imposes price controls on sellers. Many of these regulations were originally crafted some 80 years ago in the post-Prohibition era.

So what are the effects? Defenders of the status quo argue that the current system is necessary to protect the alcohol-consuming public from itself, while reformers say Michigan’s rules hamper competition, increase costs for consumers and provide no tangible positive health and safety effects. This panel will discuss Michigan’s current regulatory system, present research on state-by-state comparisons and offer different regulatory options Michigan policymakers might consider.

To RSVP or learn more about the event, click here.

Opponents Continue to Fight Michigan's Half-Mile Liquor Rule Reform


Last year, Michigan's Liquor Control Commission repealed the state's anti-competitive "half-mile rule," which prohibited liquor stores from operating within a half-mile of each other. Incumbent liquor store responded by trying to get the state legislature to overrule the Commission's decision, although these efforts have so far failed to clear the state House. According to the Detroit News, opponents of the reform are now trying to use the courts to block it:

A long-running battle over Michigan’s prohibition against liquor stores operating within a half-mile of each other is back in court as existing small business owners try to stop the state from eliminating the distance requirement.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello in January temporarily blocked plans to rescind the liquor store rule after the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers sued the state for a second time. Borrello is set to hear arguments in the case on March 19.

Eliminating the rule would cause “irreparable harm” to thousands of liquor store owners who “have invested substantial sums, time and sweat” to obtain state licenses with the expectation a competitor could not open next door, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint seeks to keep the four-decade-old rule in place while the Michigan House considers a Senate-approved bill that would write the 2,640-foot distance requirement into state law.

But the Liquor Control Commission says the rule squashes competition and is seeking to dismiss the case. Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Office argues the state followed proper protocols for rescinding the rule...

Read more here.



Repeal of Michigan's Half-Mile Reform Clears Senate, Heads to House


Michigan liquor regulators recently repealed the state's protectionist half-mile rule that prohibited any liquor store from operating within a half-mile of another liquor store. The state legislature, in response to outcry from incumbent liquor store owners, is now taking steps to overrule this reform effort:

"The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would continue to prohibit liquor stores from operating within a half-mile of each other, defying efforts by state bureaucrats to scrap a longstanding proximity rule.

The 27-9 vote came hours after dozens of furious liquor store owners flooded a legislative hearing at the Michigan Capitol, protesting a pending rule change they claimed could kill their small businesses by allowing competitors to sell liquor next door.

In a battle that has been brewing for months, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission is attempting to strike a 1978 rule limiting liquor stores from operating within 2,640 feet of one another. The commission argues the rule is “protectionist” and anti-competitive.

The Senate legislation would thwart those plans by writing the so-called half-mile rule into law. It would also create exemptions allowing larger retailers and grocery stores to get around the rules..."

Read more here.

Michigan Considers Legislation to Reform Beer Growler Sales


The Michigan legislature is currently considering a bill that would streamline the licensing process for selling and refilling beer growlers in the state. Specifically, the legislation would ensure that retailers such as grocery stores no longer need to obtain specialized tavern or distributor licenses to sell growlers. Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, testified in favor of the bill:

This bill is a simple one — it lowers the threshold by one major step to make it easier for people to buy and sell beer. At the end of the day, this bill expands the ability for people to freely buy a legal product with no cost to the state or other residents. The Mackinac Center is happy to support it...


Current rules simply cause higher prices and drive more business underground. The current rules regarding who can sell growlers are overly confusing and have caused people to get into trouble needlessly. We’re happy to see legislators consider chopping back one more regulation and we encourage you to look at the system from top-to-bottom as a whole..."

 The full testimony is available here.

Could Michigan's Half-Mile Liquor Store Rule Be Revived?


Michigan's Liquor Control Commission recently repealed the state's "half-mile rule," which prevented liquor stores in the state from operating within a half-mile radius of each other. According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, there's a chance the state legislature could override this reform:

"The state of Michigan is believed to have been the only state in the country that imposed a peculiar prohibition on one liquor store being located within a half-mile of another liquor store.

That changed when the Michigan Liquor Control Commission rescinded the restriction on Sept. 26. But it could be reinstated if two bills pending in the Michigan Legislature are passed and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. They would override the commission’s decision and restore the half-mile restriction.

Jarrett Skorup, the author of a study published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on how licensing laws hurt consumers, testified before a House committee on the legislation.

Skorup said other kinds of businesses operate without a law banning competitors from operating within a half mile.

'Meijer isn’t real happy when a Kroger operates nearby and they would love a law that prevents them from doing so, but the Legislature won’t pass that because we believe in the spirit of competition.'..."

Read the rest of the article here.


Michigan liquor regulators lift half-mile rule for liquor stores


DrinksReform.org has previously highlighted Michigan's "half-mile rule," which prohibits liquor stores in the state from operating within a half-mile radius of each other. According to The Detroit News, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has voted to repeal the rule, although there's a chance the state legislature could overrule the commission and keep the rule in place:

"The Michigan Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday voted to lift a long-standing rule prohibiting liquor stores from operating within a half-mile of each other, advancing the plan despite opposition from existing owners and public safety concerns.

Approval from the three-member panel allows the rule-making process to proceed following a contentious public comment period. Michigan legislators could still intervene before the rule is officially revoked..."

Read the whole story here.