By David Fleet
Patrons of bars and restaurants statewide could toss a few more back until 4 a.m. with a bill that passed the State House last week.
On March 18, a third and final vote was held regarding State Rep. Ryan Berman’s (R- 39th District Commerce Township) House Bill 4115 which passed 61-47. House Bill 4115 was co-sponsored by Sara Cambensy (D-109th District) and Gary Eisen (R-81st District). Bill sponsor, Berman recently testified in front of a state House committee that would allow local municipalities to pass their own rules to extend the pre-pandemic cutoff of 2 a.m. to make it 4 a.m. The bill takes aim at helping bars financially after many lost revenues during the coronavirus restrictions.
State Rep. John Reilly (R-46th) which includes Brandon Township supports the concept of allowing establishments to make these decisions at the local level. However, an amendment was added to the bill that creates a new late-night permit fee of $250. Rep. Reilly, expressed this fee is an unnecessary requirement and only an opportunity for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to make a profit.
However, after further discussion with his House colleagues about the legislation Reilly changed his mind. The reason for this was although Rep. Reilly still disagrees with the $250 annual fee, as a legislator he believes the House needs to assist struggling business owners in any way possible.
“The unprecedented hardships business owners endured over the last year prompted this final decision,” said Reilly, in a written statement.
“Ultimately, the decision to remain open will still be up to determination of local governments.”
Rep. Mike Mueller (R-51st), which includes Atlas and Brandon townships voted no on HB 4115, but did not comment on the proposed legislation. Mueller was a former deputy with both the Washetnaw and Livingston County Sheriff departments prior to his election to the House.Like Rep. Mueller, Bill Amundsen, a former board member of the Michigan Council on Alcohol Problems also opposes HB 4115. The MCAP, educates Michigan citizens about the consequences of the use and abuse of beverage alcohol and other impairing drugs. They also promote public policies that would eliminate or mitigate those consequences.
“There is a phenomenon unmentioned in HB 4115 known as the “Last Call” in bars and restaurants,” said Amundsen. “At whatever the closing time, those serving the beverage alcohol must announce ‘Last Call.’”
That is usually done 1 to 5 minutes before closing. And that means that if a person orders their final drink at that time, they get an extra 30 minutes to complete that drink.
“Supposing HB 4115 to go through, and the “Last Call” is issued at 3:55 a.m., the person has until 4:25 a.m. to complete their drink. By the time they get their coats on, say good-bye to their friends, and get in their cars to drive home, it is now about 4:35 a.m. It is not hard to imagine a headline in the local paper such as: “Drunken driver kills nurse who was en-route to her 5 a.m. shift at local emergency room.’”
By David Fleet