Enough is Enough! Strong Licensing Standards Keep a Lid on Alcohol Explosion

In recent years, Michigan has seen a dramatic increase in the number of alcohol outlets, retail licenses and other opportunities for sales to consumers.  And new proposals and ideas to expand alcohol outlets continue to surface regularly.  Responsible regulation of alcohol sales and public safety require there be a limit on the number of outlets. There comes a time when the Legislature must say – enough is enough!

Currently Michigan has over 19,000 licensed retail locations where consumers have access to and can purchase one of the country’s greatest varieties of beer and wine. This represents a 20-percent  increase in licenses in 2012-2014 alone.  In addition to licensed retailers, Michigan allows direct-to-consumer shipping of wine; tasting rooms at wineries, breweries and microbreweries; brewpubs; and wine at farm markets.  Now, proposals are being introduced to allow direct-to-consumer shipments of beer and spirits; increased licenses for gas stations; and sampling and selling beer and spirits at farm markets, essentially turning them into bars.

Since 9/11, Michigan communities have 3,585 fewer law enforcement officers today to keep local neighborhoods safe.[1] Already called upon to do more with fewer resources, they will be under even greater pressure if access to alcohol were to continue the current trend of uninhibited expansion. Distributors urge policymakers to account for the public health concerns of Michigan residents when considering proposals to expand alcohol outlets.

Michigan voters have made clear that they enjoy good access to alcohol products, with more than 90 percent saying it is easy for adults to find a variety of beer, wine and liquor in their communities. And, by a 2-to-1 margin (62 to 29 percent), Michigan voters say that it is more important to “ensure that Michigan has strong safeguards on the sale of alcohol to ensure public safety” rather than to reform Michigan’s alcohol regulations.  

Weakening safeguards by adding unlimited points of access will result in more alcohol-related problems, stretching local law enforcement officers thin and putting the communities they serve at risk.

Before expanding the number of outlets, including additional retail licenses, distributors recommend policymakers analyze the number of off-premise licenses for beer and wine, commonly referred to as SDM’s. While Michigan law has provided a quota system for the number of off-premise retail locations allowed to sell spirits (SDDs), there is no such quota for SDM licenses. The state has more than 8,000 of these off-premise licensees – with the potential for countless more.

To ensure Michigan has a responsible licensing system, policymakers should consider these questions:

  • Who should qualify for an SDM license?
  • How many of these off-premise licenses should Michigan have?
  • Is it time for a cap or quota system on the number of off-premise beer and wine licenses?[2]

As already mentioned, proposals have surfaced to allow more gas stations to sell alcohol. Michigan has more than 5,000 gas stations, with over 1,800 of these already licensed to sell alcohol. Most of the current proposals would allow the remaining 3,200 to receive licenses.  Add to the equation allowing beer and/or spirits to be sold at the over 800 bona-fide farm markets around the state and allowing additional direct shipments of beer and spirits, and we have a formula for disaster.

Studies show that alcohol outlet density is directly related to the level of alcohol harm that neighborhoods experience, particularly violence.

[3]

In order to promote public health and safety, distributors urge policymakers to say “Enough is enough!”


[1] Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, data as of 7/31/2012.

[2] On-premise licenses would be exempt.

[3] Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention & Epidemiology (10/25/2011); Marin Institute, Alcohol outlet density and public health, (11/9/2011).