By KATRIANNA RAY
Capital News Service
LANSING — The popular law that introduced self-serving beer and wine dispensers to bars and restaurants could be seeing major changes, thanks to a recently introduced bill that would lower the amount of alcohol dispensed by the machines.
In 2017, the Liquor Control Commission approved a new rule allowing self-serving beer and wine machines in restaurants and bars. The new suggested bill would amend this rule.
“We need to be mindful of the growth of the craft beer industry in Michigan and respond to the demands of the marketplace,” said Rep. Rodney Wakeman, R-Saginaw Township, the lead sponsor.
The self-serve dispenser has slowly increased in popularity in Michigan and remains an alternative to traditional craft brew settings where servers pour and serve the beverages. Harper’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in East Lansing and Lake Superior Smokehouse Brewpub in Marquette both use the technology.
Customers must order their drink from a worker to verify they are 21, but then could dispense the drink themselves using a tabletop dispenser.“In some places, it’s kind of a novelty thing within the business,” said Scott Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild. The guild doesn’t have a stance on the issue, he said.
A machine wouldn’t be allowed to dispense more than 96 ounces of beer or wine from a single order, according to the legislation.
Each table shares a machine. If six patrons sit at the table, then the six share 96 ounces, for example. If they want more, the table can order more from the server.
The bill would lower the total amount served.
After the server authorizes the machine, it would dispense a maximum of 48 ounces of beer or 15 ounces of wine. That’s intended to limit overdrinking and make it easier for servers not to over serve, according to the proposal
“You’re still responsible for looking out for your guests and making sure you’re not overserving them,” Graham said, referring to servers’ control of the dispenser.
Spencer Nevins, the president of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, said, “It’s important to note that with any self-serve device it is imperative the licensee remain responsible for adhering to Michigan’s laws and rules regarding the service of alcohol to consumers”
He said, “Michigan’s beer and wine distributors are proud to partner with health professionals to promote the responsible use of alcohol and reduce drunken driving and binge and underage drinking.”
Wakeman’s bill is awaiting action in the House Regulatory Reform Committee.In another alcohol-related action, the House passed a package of bills in February to let microbrewers distribute up to 2,000 barrels of beer to a retailer annually, reduce the frequency of paying beer and wine taxes from monthly to quarterly and eliminate redundant product requirements. The legislation is awaiting Senate action.
“Craft brewing is a billion-dollar industry in Michigan providing nearly 10,000 jobs in communities throughout our state,” said Rep. Pauline Wendzel, R-Watervliet, a co-sponsor of the distribution bill. “Our state sits near the top of every list as it relates to brewing, and I hope that this package will help create an even better environment that allows these small businesses to grow and thrive.”