Extended bar hours, Sunday sales, draw criticism

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Legislation to extend bar hours from 2 to 4 a.m. may face a problem, because restaurant and bar owners who support the idea don’t like the cost.
Under a bill by Rep. Richard Hammel, D-Mount Morris Township, nightclubs and taverns would have to pay an annual fee of $1,500 to stay open longer. The bill also would allow retailers to sell alcohol before noon on Sunday if they also pay the annual fee of $1,500.
The measure has passed a House committee and is awaiting full House action.
Andy Deloney, public affairs director for the Michigan Restaurant Association, said the fee is excessive and bar owners are already having a tough time, the new cost could make it worse.
Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said most of its membership wouldn’t apply for an extra $1,500 because the standard liquor license begins at $800 a year, with additional fees for special accommodations like Sunday sales, entertainment and outdoor sales.
But the Liquor Control Commission (LCC) director of executive sales, Ken Wozniak, said clubs and retailers could benefit from the proposal because club-goers may stay longer and establishments could draw a later crowd.
The extended hours would help spread out time of drivers, some proponents say.
“Is there higher traffic that late at night? We don’t know,” and there hasn’t been enough research on driving times that late in the morning because you also have early commuters going to work, said Wozniak.
Twenty-four-hour operations should be able to sell alcohol if they’re open, Wozniak added. But critics would say,“ We need to protect Sundays, it’s a day for family and for going to church,” he said.
Binoniemi said he is committed to working with the House on something more affordable.
The bill would provide local governments veto power to block some establishments from extended hours.
Wozniak said the LCC supports the idea of local agencies being able to evaluate each establishment case by case because locals should retain the power to opt out.
Michigan’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes the proposal.
The expanded hours would put more impaired drivers on the streets, said Executive Director Homer Smith.
The proposal is a part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s plan to raise new revenue to offset budget cuts made by the Legislature.
The proposed early morning sales permit and Sunday morning sales permit would generate an estimated $13.8 million, according to a House legislative analysis.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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