Michigan lawmakers sanction “beer walls” and swim-up bars; “We need these things”

Hotels, resorts and water parks that hold an alcohol license would have the option to open swim up bars for adult customers under bipartisan House legislation passed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after a 37-1 vote in the state Senate.


Bars, restaurants and other businesses with a “local” liquor license are also likely to install “self-service machines” – such as “Tap Walls” or “Beer Walls” – for customers to pour their own drinks, according to a bill approved by the House of Representatives by a 78-28 vote on Wednesday.

The House also gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation that would make this possible 17-year-old Serving alcohol in restaurants provided they are following an apprenticeship program and are supervised by someone 18 years of age or older.

“We’re creative and tinkering with the edges, if you will, to help a still-battered industry, particularly on the labor side,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, which championed the Swim -up bar legislation.

He said hotels and restaurants are making a comeback in Michigan, but the industry employs 35,000 fewer workers than before the pandemic, when there were about 435,000 workers.

“The challenge is that demand has increased a lot and we don’t quite have the supply to meet it yet,” Winslow told Bridge Michigan.

The pandemic has really “changed a lot of mindsets about customer service,” said Senator Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, who has sponsored the self-serve liquor bill and said it would help Michigan catch up with dozens of states with similar laws.

Self-service dispensers would help customers wary of airborne germs or viruses – as well as businesses struggling to find workers amid a labor shortage that has become “particularly acute”, Runestad told Bridge.

The proposal would allow it alcohol dispensers in hotel rooms, at restaurant booths, or elsewhere in a bar. Customers would first have to identify themselves to purchase a secure key card, which they could scan to activate the tap and pour their own beer, wine, or mixed drinks.

The self-serve dispensers can dispense up to 16 ounces of beer, 12 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of a mixed drink per serving. Customers would be limited to 32 ounces total unless a bartender or staff member agrees to let them purchase more.

“I’ve been to bars where people have gone completely insane, gathered enough to say ‘one more double,’ and a busy bartender brings them a drink,” Runestad said. “It’s a lot safer because they would have to come up and go through a process to get more alcohol.”

That Swim up bar legislation is supported by companies like the Bavarian Inn Lodge of Frankenmuth, with four indoor pools and two water slides, and Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, which includes the Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark.

“Swim-up bars have been operating globally and in 24 states for many years,” Michael Zehnder of the Bavarian Inn told the committee last month, telling lawmakers his family had plans to grow their business “bigger than ever.” to expand “Neighboring states like Ohio and Wisconsin have had a competitive advantage over Michigan for years.”

Under the legislation, swim-up bars could only be operated by businesses that already had a local alcohol license, and they could only be located in an “exclusive area that is clearly defined, clearly marked and not accessible to minors”.

The wands themselves would need to be made of a material that is “non-absorbent” and free of sharp edges. The swimming pool would need lifeguards and could not contain a slide or diving board.

The water would have to be treated to “raised disinfection and filtration standards” and monitored with an electronic chemical control system. And the plates and cups would need to be made of plastic or some other unbreakable material, designed to “reduce the chance of food or drink spilling in the water.”

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