Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Webber: House votes to permit outdoor social drinking zones, cocktails to-go
RELEASE|June 18, 2020

Bipartisan measures to help local establishments adapt to COVID-19 times

The Michigan House this week approved bipartisan legislation spearheaded by Reps. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills) and Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) giving Michigan bars and restaurants a new source of economic support in a time when they need it most.

The measures would allow local municipalities to establish designated drinking areas where people can purchase and enjoy on-the-go alcoholic beverages. In areas where the “social districts” are in place, people of legal drinking age can walk around in public drinking alcoholic beverages as long as they remain within the boundaries of the district. Under the bills, Michigan bars and restaurants would also be given the ability to sell cocktails to-go or for delivery, similar to beer growlers.

Webber said social districts, if permitted, would give bars and restaurants another tool to help make up for the financial losses suffered during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, and also balance the need for customers to practice social distancing.

“Our hospitality industry has endured a lot these past few months,” said Webber, who chairs the House Regulatory Reform Committee. “The establishments that were fortunate to avoid permanent closure are in need of increased flexibility and a financial boost that will help pull them out of the economic hole COVID-19 forced them into. This legislation shows the Legislature’s commitment to give our local bars and restaurants the ability to adapt to the new environment of the service industry. Social districts and on-the-go alcoholic beverages will simultaneously help attract people to their local downtowns and promote social distancing.”

Under the legislation, local governments would be given the sole authority to permit and revoke social districts. Beverages sold to-go or for home delivery would be required to be in qualified containers that are consistent with the rules for filling beer growlers. Webber said the city of Toledo already has a social district Michigan residents are crossing the state border to access.

“Social drinking districts, as well as alcohol orders to-go, are not new concepts,” Webber said. “As Michigan bars and restaurants look to recover from COVID-19, they’re going to have to find creative ways to expand their footprint to accommodate the desires of patrons while maintaining social distancing and occupancy restrictions. This is a common-sense solution that could prove very beneficial to the local establishments serving our communities.”

House Bills 5781 & 5811 were both passed by the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and now move to the Senate for further consideration.


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