Michigan bars petition for executive order allowing carry-out cocktails, to-go alcohol


ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Owners of almost 30 bars and hospitality groups around Michigan have joined forces to petition Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to allow the temporary sale of carry-out cocktails and other drinks.

Organized by Micah Bartelme, CEO Ann Arbor-based BarStar Group, and Robyn Cleveland, owner of Detroit-based Norden Aquavit, signees on the Change.org petition consist of a coalition of influential members of Michigan’s small business, hospitality and spirits community.

According to the petition, an executive order allowing the sale of to-go beer, wine, cocktails, and spirits at licensed bars and restaurants would allow businesses to mitigate continual losses due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For Bartelme, this would mean hiring back two to four managers and some part-time staff to help with preparing pre-bottled cocktails, mixes cocktail batches, delivery and administrative management.

Purchasers of the to-go drinks would be required to keep containers closed until they returned to their homes so as to abide by open-container laws.

According to Bartelme, the effects of being able to sell carry-out drinks would also trickle down to supportive businesses and suppliers.

For Cleveland, an executive order allowing to-go alcohol would help him to work with independent contractors again and to rebuild his marketing efforts. He said sales of Norden Aquavit have dropped by 90%.

“I’m supporting this because I’m watching some my closest friends, and the biggest supporters of our brand, balancing on the edge of losing everything. Bailouts aren’t enough and aren’t coming fast enough," Cleveland said through email. "These businesses—already deemed essential— need to be able to sell their inventory and have options for creative ways to save their livelihoods.”

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Being able to sell alcohol temporarily would help businesses to offset future losses. Bartelme said that even when bars are allowed to reopen, he anticipates a 50% reduction in revue due to anticipated restrictions for capacity and on-premise spacing.

“We feel strongly that this type of innovation and quick adaptability of business models to changing economic conditions is the essence of American entrepreneurial spirit. This is truly a case of regulations hampering and potentially devastating small businesses. Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures,” said Bartelme.

“This is a small ask of the Governor and MLCC, already working to great effect in other states, including our neighbors in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The continued refusal of the MLCC to consider this is a travesty. Many of the liquor laws on the books date to the immediate aftermath of Prohibitions repeal. It's past time to take a common sense look at what can be changed and adjusted to aid the 8,500 liquor licensees in Michigan in their fight for survival.”

Similar executive orders or waivers are currently in place for Ohio, New York, Maryland, Vermont, Texas, Illinois, California, and many other states.

Bartelme and Cleveland intend to get the petition in front of Michigan lawmakers to show the urgency for businesses and statewide support.

Signees include Robben Schulz of Watershed Hospitality, Matthew Buskard of Bobcat Bonnies, Sandy Levine of The Oakland and Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails, and John P. Jerome of Detroit City Distillery, among many others.

Read the petition here.

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