Ordinance Amendment First Step in Regaining Control Over Liquor License Transfers
Businesses with liquor licenses that want to change owners or locations now have to come before the Birmingham City Commission.
Birmingham took the next step toward further regulating its liquor licenses Monday night, voting to amend the city code so that liquor licensed establishments looking to move or change owners have to come before the Birmingham City Commission.
The move is just another step toward regaining control of the city's Class C liquor licenses, after new rules from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) removed the need for municipal oversight during liquor license transfers.
On a larger scale, however, the vote was one part of the city's attempt to move all liquor licensed establishments under Special Land Use Permits (SLUPs), which require approval by the city commission.
Under new rules, businesses looking to change ownership or locations have to come before city
According to City Manager Bob Bruner, the new rules from the MLCC state that businesses don't need municipal approval when transferring a liquor license — only the MLCC's.
Not only does this mean Birmingham's existing licenses can now be transferred at will, but licenses from other cities can also be transferred in — and city officials wouldn't know anything about it.
"They could take a liquor license and plop it at the Pancake House and we wouldn't even know about it," city attorney Tim Currier said Monday night.
Monday night's ordinance amendment "fills the hole" left by the MLCC rule change, Police Chief Don Studt said. Now that the ordinance amendment has passed, any business that sells alcohol for consumption on premises must receive city commission approval before transferring ownership or changing locations.
According to Currier, Birmingham's ordinances take precedent over any MLCC rules.
"The MLCC can't touch local ordinances," he said. "It doesn't matter if they were passed before or after (the rules changed)."
City looks to require SLUPs for all businesses with liquor licenses
However, amending the city code is just one part of the city's plan to better regulate its liquor licenses.
Birmingham is also looking to amend Chapter 126 of its zoning code so that any new business looking to sell on-premise alcohol would be forced to obtain a SLUP, which can be regulated by the city commission.
Currently, SLUPs are required for businesses operating with one of Birmingham's bistro licenses and for various other reasons, such as particularly large restaurants like the Griffin Claw Brewery.
The plan was first introduced in early July by Bruner, after the new MLCC rules went into effect July 1. The Birmingham Planning Board held a special study session on the issue on July 25, followed by a public hearing on Aug. 8.
The Birmingham City Commission was slated to hold their own public hearing on Monday, however City Clerk Laura Broski said the public hearing notice was published too late in time to hold the hearing on Monday.
A new hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 27. Should the city decide to amend the zoning code and the new rules were to go in effect, existing businesses looking to transfer their license — which are now required to come before the city commission anyway under Monday night's vote — would have to obtain a SLUP as well.
On Monday, City Commissioner Gordon Rinschler said the decision to amend the zoning code may be more important than whether to request revocation of South Bar's liquor license
"This is the preventative program to make sure we don't get into this situation in the first place," he said.