Change in liquor license approval process raises concerns

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By Meg Abebe
Lansing Star Staff Writer

A change last year removes Lansing City Council from the approval process for issuing local liquor licenses, raising questions about local input and public safety.

“In the past, local governing bodies had to approve new liquor licenses and could revoke them if there were too many problems at the establishment,” said Melissa Huber, president of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association. “The state has complete control over liquor licenses now.”

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs re-interpreted the ordinance so that the city council’s voice has been rendered unnecessary. Local government used to have much more control under the older system.

What does this mean for the community?

The change removes some control from the hands of the local government. Since serving and selling alcohol is often associated with crime and disorder, there is concern that local officials no longer have an opportunity to be proactive. The map below shows some locations of concern (click here for details).

mapofproblems.jpgLearn more about these problem areas here.

Why does this matter?

Keeping power within the community can keep issues more localized in in control of residents. The Lansing community has a history of demonstrating how powerful they can be.

“Rite Aid was going to get a beer and wine license which are given out readily by the state,” Woods said, “because of the proximity of the churches and the schools that neighborhood petitioned council.”

Ranging from adults to elementary schools aged students, residents of the area around made it clear that they did not want alcohol sold in their neighborhoods.

“They ended up agreeing to withdraw their request for a liquor license,
Woods said “because we had gotten all these groups together”

The community voice is important. LARA’s reinterpretation of the liquor ordinance clause is effects neighborhood power.

“Lansing Police Department would work with City Council to identify problems, work on solutions, and tell them what they had to do to keep their license from being revoked.” Huber said, “It was a very helpful community development tool. But it is gone now.”

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