Will Sales of Carry-Out Cocktails Increase Instances of Michigan Drunk Driving?

Allowing the sale of pre-made cocktails and other types of alcoholic beverages to be sold carry-out may increase the numbers of drunk drivers on Michigan’s roads. However, because the answer to how carry out liquor sales will impact instances of DUI is not clear-cut, only time will tell if this potential for increased DUI becomes reality.

A good argument can be made that the new carry-out laws will have zero impact on DUI in Michigan. But these arguments assume that the bars and restaurants will be keeping a close eye on their patrons after the carry-out sale is made. If the persons consuming the alcohol are under less scrutiny from the persons selling it, and therefore less likely to get “cut off” before becoming intoxicated, then the new law may create a greater likelihood of drunk drivers.

The covid-19 restrictions imposed by Governor Whitmer have hurt the bottom line for all of Michigan’s bars and restaurants, and these new bills are intended in part to create a new stream of revenue and help these small businesses survive. For example, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Ben Giovanelli, who is the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, believes that outdoor sales will be the key to survival for many bars and restaurants, who are still only allowed to operate at half-capacity.  Social districts can help make up the difference.

Carry-out sales of alcohol in Michigan became reality when, earlier this month, two bills made it through the legislature that would allow bars and restaurants to sell carry-out alcohol by the glass for consumption in a designated “social district” and also allow the sale of alcohol as part of a to go meal delivery to a person’s home or business.  The bills are HB 5781 and HB 5811.

House Bill 5781 (proposed substitute H-1), dated June 3, 2020, House Bill 5781 would allow restaurant and bar owners already possessing liquor license to obtain a permit to sell and dispense drinks by the glass to carry-out customers.  These beverages would then need to be consumed in the commons area of a “social district.”

Setting up a social district would require a permit from the local governing authority, and the district itself would have to be clearly marked and defined. A social district permit would allow  the bar or restaurant owner to  sell to go cocktails only if the beverage is sold within the bar or restaurant and only if it is to be consumed within the social district.

House Bill 5811, also dated June 3, 2020, would allow a restaurant to sell alcohol as part of a carryout order for deliver to a person’s home or business. Special containers must be used and each container can’t exceed one gallon.  Also, the person delivering and receiving the alcohol must both be at least 21 years old.

Delivering alcohol to a person’s home or business is probably not all that likely to increase the numbers of drunk drivers in Michigan.  However, allowing carry-out cocktails to be consumed in social districts outside the bar or restaurant, does seem to have the potential to lead to more drunk driving arrests.

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