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Michigan Senate OKs expansion of wine, beer sales

Legislation expanding the list of places where Michiganians can buy bottles of wine or jugs of beer won approval Tuesday in the Michigan Senate.

The three bills are the first in a series of beer, wine and liquor law changes the Snyder administration and lawmakers are pushing this year to foster Michigan’s fast-growing home industry in wine- and beer-making and liquor distilling.

Snyder also has targeted the state’s voluminous collection of alcoholic beverage rules as part of his effort to trim state government by getting rid of red tape and unneeded regulation.

Two of the bills passed Tuesday would make it easier for state winemakers to offer tastings and sell bottles of their products at farmers markets.

Under the legislation, the fee for an annual farmer’s market permit would be $25 for each farmer’s market location. Winemakers could buy one permit for every 1,5000 residents of the county where the winemaker is located.

“The fee is reasonably priced to make it financially viable for winemakers to have a presence at multiple locations,” said state Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, who sponsored the two bills.

The third bill would allow restaurants, bars and other such establishments to fill and sell jugs, called growlers, with beers they have on tap. Currently, only businesses licensed as brew pubs or microbreweries are allowed to fill and sell growlers of beer.

According to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, some western Michigan restaurants already had been selling growlers of beer in violation of the current restrictions. Rather than continue enforcing the limit, proponents of the bill argue, the state should let other hospitality-related businesses offer growlers to their customers, too.

Opponents argue any easing of the rules would lead to more problems stemming from alcohol abuse. Proponents say wine, beer and liquor are readily available now, so further relaxing of the rules wouldn’t exacerbate such problems.

Source: Detroit News