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Whitmer approves liquor buyback program as bar, restaurant restrictions extended

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order allowing the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to buy back spirits on the shelves of bars and restaurants that have been closed for four weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The state’s liquor control commission plans to meet Tuesday to take action on creating the buyback program.

Under the governor’s order, the commission can use its revolving fund to buy back liquor bottles from bars and restaurants that purchased them through the state’s wholesale system prior to March 16.

Bars and restaurants would get a temporary cash refund on the full purchase price of the liquor. But they would have to pay back to the liquor control commission 90 days after Whitmer’s emergency and disasters declarations are lifted, according to the governor’s office.

“They can pay us back and sell it or they can give us the liquor back,” said Pat Gagliardi, chairman of the Liquor Control Commission.

Michigan has 8,500 bars, taverns, breweries and restaurants that are licensed to sell liquor for consumption on premise.

Crain’s first reported Friday that Whitmer was considering a liquor buyback program to help bars and restaurants, which were among the first public accommodation businesses she closed March 16 to mitigate spread of the coronavirus.

The governor’s ordered temporarily banned dine-in service and will remain in effect through April 30.

“This buy-back program will help our bars and restaurants critical to Michigan’s economy weather the storm through this challenging time in our history,” Whitmer said late Monday night in a statement.

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, told Crain’s last week that a liquor buyback could amount to $20 million in temporary cash assistance for bars and restaurants to restart their operations once the governor’s stay-at-home order is lifted.

“We thank MLCC Chairman Pat Gagliardi for his creative leadership during an immensely challenging time in the hospitality industry,” Winslow said Tuesday in a statement. “He has offered an elegant solution, essentially providing a contact-free buy back opportunity for shuttered restaurants and bars who currently have no other way of generating revenue from their alcoholic spirits.”

The buyback program is being fashioned to give bars and restaurants that reopen an immediate infusion of cash to reopen. But in cases where the bar doesn’t reopen, the commission will refund the owner and one of the state’s three authorized distributors will pick it up and return it to their warehouse, Gagliardi said.

Resuming business for the hospitality industry “is going to be tough” after the coronavirus threat subsides, Gagliardi said Tuesday.
“This is a start in helping our industry,” he said.

Bar and restaurant owners will have until 5 p.m. Friday to request a buyback of liquor they have in stock, according to the governor’s office. An application will be available later Tuesday on the liquor control commission’s website, Gagliardi said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the order authorizing the buyback program in a flurry of moves late Monday.

She also delayed the expiration of valid driver’s licenses, state ID cards and vehicle registrations.

Order 2020-47 temporarily extends commercial vehicle registrations set to expire on or after March 1 until June 30. The order also extended driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and commercial driver’s licenses set to expire between March 1 and May 31 until June 30. The temporary extension does not apply to suspended or revoked driver’s licenses.


Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on April 14, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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