State Regulations Suffocate Hospitality Industry

Kudos to state Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor), who wants to ease some of the regulatory burdens on Michigan’s hospitality industry. Among other things, he has introduced legislation to provide modest exceptions to a statewide smoking ban that restaurant owners and employees say is harming their livelihoods.

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Rep. Geiss is also the sponsor of legislation (HB 4061) to remove a government ban on home brewers gathering to share their “craft” products (beer, wine and cider) at licensed microbreweries or brew pubs. The restriction is one small example of how suffocating Michigan’s current Liquor Control Code can be — generally to the benefit of certain special-interest monopolies favored by the law. (See “Michigan’s Government-Mandated Beer Contracts: Harder to Escape than Marriage?”)

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, the Liquor Control Code “generally prohibits” people from conducting samplings of alcohol for commercial purposes. Under Geiss’s bill, members of brewers' clubs would be allowed to sample each other’s work and have their product tasted by a judge in a competition held at a local brew pub or microbrewery.

Such businesses are a natural meeting place for home brewers. The host may find future employees, or good ideas for improving his own product. Club members are good for business, too, buying food and drink while they meet. Such peaceful, voluntary association could be a win-win for all parties — if the state stopped prohibiting it.

“Someone had to make the wine for the last supper, and they were a home brewer,” Geiss told Michigan Capitol Confidential’s Kathy Hoekstra.

Rep. Geiss’s proposed reforms are modest, but the industry will take whatever help it can get in the current economy. As for whether the restaurant smoking ban hurt business, the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association reported a drop in sales from alcohol, food and lottery tickets of 21 percent between May and July 2010, the months after the ban took effect, according to an article on