Thursday, September 24, 2020

Local bars opt out of Gov. Whitmer's liquor buyback program

April 21, 2020
Inside Crunchy's bar on Nov. 19, 2019.
Inside Crunchy's bar on Nov. 19, 2019. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order which will initiate a spirits buyback program to offer financial relief to bars and restaurants.

Restaurants and bars originally needed to make their request to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, or MLCC, no later than Friday, April 17, 2020 at 5 p.m. then the order was extended to Friday, April 24, 2020 at 5 p.m. according to MLive.

East Lansing bars and restaurants have been struggling to make ends meet as college students are, for the most part, no longer there. Given the stay-at-home order, restaurants are currently only providing delivery and takeout services.

When asked whether The Peanut Barrel was going to make a request, Manager Meghan Bell said they plan on keeping everything on hand for future sales and would not be making a buyback request.

Bell said that business for The Peanut Barrel has not been great but faring during this pandemic.

“We have been slow compared to what we can normally expect this time of year, but we are still seeing a lot of support from the community and from our regular customers," Bell said. "Residents throughout East Lansing are still coming in and are still ordering takeout food and getting to-go beer so while it is slower, we’re still here.” 

Crunchy’s Owner and General Manager Mike Krueger said they do not plan on making a request.

“It just seems like more trouble than it is actually worth,” Krueger said. “We’re doing the best we can with curbside takeout and third-party delivery stuff but it has not been easy for sure.”

When it came to alcohol sales Krueger said they haven’t been making a significant profit.

“We can’t sell liquor but we are able to do growlers of draft beer to-go and bottles of beer to-go and they've been, again not great, but at least it’s something to help supplement and go along with the food for people to have a complete meal experience.”

Trish O’Brien Riley, owner of Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub, said Harper's is still holding out hope for alcohol sales which is why they are not making the request.

“I am not ... because I’m hopeful that we will get things back to normal and we’ve already placed everything on inventory," Riley said.

That isn’t Riley’s only reason for not making the request, she also wants to make it a little easier on the state of Michigan. 

“We also want to help the state," Riley said. "I mean we’re just trying to be as supportive across the board as we can and try to make this a team effort to get through this. We do purchase quite a large volume and so we just feel like we can use it in the future so we’re not asking for them to do that.”

The stay-at-home order has proven to be a challenge for businesses such as Harper’s.

“We have hardly any business, cause the only thing we're doing is takeout and it’s a very small amount of business for us because we did not set that up prior to the quarantine so it’s really been a challenge.” Riley said.

When it comes to alcohol they can currently sell, there is a limited selection as liquor cannot be sold and beer can only be sold through takeout.

“We can only sell growlers or kegs or those components through takeout, so somebody would have to come in for takeout, show their ID, and then we could sell it to them," Riley said. "But that’s a very hard business offer to get going when you haven’t established that before and obviously nobody is going out as much. So they want home deliveries but you can’t home deliver any of that.”

At the end of the day Riley thinks it’s important to be hopeful and plans to reopen Harper’s, when she is able to, with extra health measures put into place.

“I just think that the big thing is everyone has got to remain optimistic," Riley said. "We have all got to be very careful, we’ve been doing extensive cleaning and coming up with systems that will be very productive when we do open back up. So that everything will be social distancing and cleanliness, and all the products that we are using will reflect this pandemic that we’ve had to go through.”

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