On Wednesday September 6 at 1 p.m. members of the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers (AFPD) will attend a hearing at Constitution Hall in Lansing to challenge the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s effort to end the ‘Half-Mile’ Rule.
“We expect hundreds of our retailers to attend,” said Auday Arabo, president and CEO of the AFPD.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) secretly eliminated the half mile rule on March 23rd., which has been around since 1979. The rule prohibits off premise retailers selling liquor from obtaining a license to do so unless they are located at least a half-mile from a similarly permitted retailer. This decision had prompted the lawsuit charging the action could decimate existing businesses.
This past March, AFPD filed a lawsuit in the Court of Claims asserting that the Liquor Control Commission (LCC) violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it took only five weeks, from the time it submitted draft rules to the Office of Regulatory Reinvention rescinding the half-mile requirement, until filing the rule as complete with the Department of State.
Since the Lawsuit, the MLCC has reinstated the rule but is now holding hearings to get rid of it.
“There is no real public policy reason for this change,” said Arabo. “Something doesn’t add up.”
Enough alcohol is sold in Michigan to supply every state resident, regardless of age, with eight alcoholic drinks a week, according to data from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
Alcohol is a $6 billion industry in the state, and those sales are going up, according to the MLCC’s most recent reports.
In 2013, the MLCC was in full support of this rule and now they want to change it. The commission has stated itself that liquor sales are up. “So, does this mean they want to increase liquor sales even more?” asked Arabo. “Without a distance, you could have a liquor store at every corner. Think of the busiest cities and imagine a liquor store on all four corners of the busiest intersections.”
This recent issue is one of the reasons AFPD is working to codify the rule in the legislation process. “MLCC’s half-mile rule is just that, a rule and not a law,” said Arabo. “We want that to change.”
Even as a rule, typically, it takes many months, sometimes years, for a rule to move through the process, which generally involves a substantial public comment period.
Since 1979, retailers have received the benefits and privileges of this rule, which prohibits the approval of a specially designated distributor license if an existing specially designated distributor license is located within 2,640 feet of the proposed site. This rule, enacted for almost 40 years, has offered licensed retailers of liquor, security from an already over saturated market. The rule has protected communities from having four liquor retailers on every busy corner in the State of Michigan.
Thousands of retailers who have invested their life savings into their businesses, and have lived and abided under (the half-mile rule), will risk losing their livelihood for which no amount of damages could compensate. Hundreds of new applicants will receive licenses and immediately jeopardize, annul and nullify the value and benefit that existing licensees have enjoyed.
Again, MLCC is now reopening the proposal to end the Half Mile Rule and there is a meeting on September 6th at Constitutional Hall in Lansing.
Hundreds of AFPD Members will be there to fight against this effort by the MLCC.