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Bars open to 4 a.m., legislation will have little impact locally



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October 16, 2013 - Lawmakers may soon consider a bill that would let some bars and restaurants in central business districts of Michigan cities extend last call to 4 a.m., tapping into alcohol sales for two additional hours.

Senate Bill 247 is expected to be taken up again in the Committee on Regulatory Reform later this fall and if approved, would require businesses to purchase an after-hours permit for $10,000 each year. In addition, business owners would be required to have video surveillance and one security personnel per 50 customers.

Funds from the permit would be distributed, with 85 percent to local police departments, 10 percent to the Liquor Control Commission and 5 percent to the local unit of government. The bill would allow downtown bars and restaurants in cities with downtown development districts to expand the hours they sell alcohol to 4 a.m. Currently, those businesses must stop serving and selling between 2-7 a.m.

Locally, only Ortonville has a Downtown Development Authority—and only The Village Pub, 411 Mill St., is within that district.

The owner of The Pub did not respond to phone calls from The Citizen for comment.

Brandon Township, which has a contract with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, would receive an additional $8,500 per year if the Pub were to purchase a permit.

Some area bars not within the downtown development areas responded to the proposed legislation.

Deanna Schram, manager of River Rock Bar & Grill, 15100 Dixie Highway, said even if the legislation was changed to include all bars and restaurants it's unlikely they would stay open until 4 a.m. "We really don't attract the bar crowd too much—we close at 10 p.m. on weekend nights," said Schram. "It's just not cost effective for us here in rural Groveland Township. Everyone drives to come here—so they would be on the road very late. For that matter, we close early at River Rock right now. If our place was in downtown Detroit or a major city where patrons could walk after a game or concert that would be different."

Sgt. Pete Burkett, Oakland County Sheriff Office, Brandon Substation would oppose bars open to 4 a.m. in bedroom communities like Ortonvlle.

"In Chicago where there are taxi cabs and trains to take home—the 4 a.m. bar scene is fine. But here in Ortonville where we have to drive to the bars," he said. "I would hate to see the repercussions of open bars here. It would create some definite issues—however, I don't want to take money out of business owners pockets but 4 a.m. would not work in a small community environment."

The Michigan Municipal League is opposed to the legislation because it doesn't include permit approval from the local towns. It also said the fee isn't high enough to cover the costs of additional police needed in areas with expanded alcohol hours.

Nikki Brown, legislative associate, state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, representing more than 400 communities statewide, said there are some concerns with the legislation.

"There's no local control or approval," said Brown. "Right now the Senate Bill 247 requires no input from village or city governments. Who better knows the local establishments than local government. Also, an establishment open from 2 to 4 in the early morning hours will require additional police coverage. There's no doubt people have been out for awhile and will now have the option of staying out even longer into the morning hours. Many communities are having a difficult time affording police and the millage required to support them. The good thing is at least a portion of the revenues will go toward the local police."

Brown added that the MML is in contact with Senator Vern Smith, (D-Detroit) who sponsored the bill, to address these issues.

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