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Liquor stores fight plan to rescind "half-mile" rule

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Michigan Liquor Control Commission seeks to rescind "half-mile" rule

Small liquor stores are urging the Michigan Liquor Control Commission not to repeal what's known as the "half-mile rule."

The rule has been in place for 40 years.  It keeps new liquor stores from opening within a half mile of existing liquor stores.

Rishi Makkar is a founding member of United Small Business Owners, as well as a liquor store owner in Grand Rapids.

He say the margin of profit on liquor sales is very low, under 15%, and out of that, stores must pay taxes, credit card charges, and other fees.

"So really the half mile rule doesn't ensure our viability but it gives us a fair shot at survival," says Makkar.

Makkar says he's a parent of two small children himself, and he thinks most parents would agree with him that liquor is already widely available, and they don't want to see it expand even more.  He says the half-mile rule keeps neighborhoods from becoming overrun with liquor store after liquor store.

But Liquor Control Commission Chairman Andy DeLoney says the commission always seeks public comment when granting a new license, and has many times denied a license because the neighborhood opposes it.

And Deloney says the rule is hurting small mom and pop stores that already sell beer and wine, but are denied licenses to sell liquor just because they're a half-mile from another liquor store.

"These are small independent businesses that have not been violating the law," says Deloney, "and yet they're denied the opportunity to grow their business because of this arbitrary rule."

The Commission is currently taking public comments on whether to get rid of the half-mile rule, and expects to make a decision in the next couple of months.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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