Michigan Liquor Control Commission softens its approach to COVID-19 rule violators

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A handful of restaurants broke the rules this winter when Michigan closed indoor restaurants.

While local law enforcement and some state agencies were reluctant to step in, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission was perhaps the biggest enforcer – suspending liquor licenses at 36 companies.

With the ban on eating in place, the MLCC softened its approach and hasn’t suspended a liquor license for nearly two months. He switched to issuing “written warning tickets” instead of emergency suspensions in most cases, “due to increased compliance,” said MLCC spokeswoman Jeannie Vogel .

“There is no penalty (fine, suspension or fee) to a liquor licensee for a written warning ticket, but it becomes part of the license holder’s history of permanent infractions,” said Vogel said in an email. “This may serve as a basis for stricter action taken by the MLCC on future violations of the same type.”

The MLCC does not have an estimate of the number of written warning tickets distributed since March and does not publish which companies receive tickets, Vogel said. The MLCC declined to comment on the reason for the new approach.

“The MLCC cannot share the details of our internal investigations and the reasons for action taken or not taken on each one,” said Vogel.

Although Michigan is once again allowing indoor dining, COVID-19 rules are still in place. Capacity is limited to 50%, there is a curfew at 11 p.m., and masks must be worn at all times when people are not eating or drinking – among other rules.

the health order expires at 11:59 p.m. on May 24, but may be extended.

Naturally, there are more nuances to violating the latest ordinances – investigators need to spot problems in the act. During the winter, the abuse was cut and dried, as indoor dining was banned statewide and some restaurants ignored the law entirely.

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As of March 2020, the MLCC has suspended alcohol licenses at 41 companies for COVID-19 violations. Of these, 36 came during the ban on dining there.

Greek Islands Eatery in Plymouth is the most recent restaurant to have its liquor license suspended after ignoring capacity limits at the end of February – including bringing in a party bus. A judge suspended the Greek Islands liquor license until March 17 and fined the company $ 1,500.

To see all other MLCC suspensions since the on-site dining ban began in November, click here.

Other Michigan agencies have cited and condemned companies for breaking COVID-19 rules, including the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

However, the ability of the MLCC to suspend or revoke liquor licenses is an important bargaining chip, since alcohol profits represent a large portion of the income for many restaurants.

“The various actions taken by the MLCC since March 2020 appear to have been successful in ensuring that licensees comply with MLCC laws and rules and all MDHHS decrees and orders,” Vogel said.

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