As the Michigan restaurant industry reels from Monday’s executive order closing all bars and restaurants for dine-in service due to novel coronavirus, many are pivoting to carryout and delivery options. Just yesterday, web design agency BMG Media and juice bar chain Beyond Juice + Eatery launched Detroit Food Updates, a resource listing area spots offering food for carry out and delivery. Now, some bars are taking this idea to the next logical step: offering beverage carryout and delivery.
Michigan began offering a Specially Designated Merchant (SDM) license for beer and wine sales in March of 2017. Liquor isn’t allowed. Many bars, restaurants, and retailers now hold these special licenses that allow retail sales, supplemental to their on-premises (Class C, Tavern) license. For those establishments that already have SDMs, which are commonly called “carryout licenses,” then they can also offer delivery, says Jeannie Vogel, public information officer for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC).
There are a few stipulations, of course. Customers who order delivery alcohol are required to show ID upon delivery and the beer or wine must be delivered by an employee of the bar or retailer. To some enterprising area bars, this is an added bonus: It gives them opportunities for staff retention during a critical time.
Dustin Leslie manages the Emory, the Loving Touch, and Woodward Avenue Brewers (WAB) in Ferndale. He’s gearing up to launch a service that had been in the works for several months: wine subscription via the Emory’s wine club. By doing so, he’s able to keep some of his long-term kitchen staff on hand to process orders. “The engine of our business is back of house [staff],” Leslie says. “We can keep the core group of our back-of-house staff,” he says, noting that they don’t earn tips and are therefore “some of the most vulnerable [employees].”
Meanwhile, the owners, who aren’t equipped to make food, will take point on making deliveries. “[The back of house staff] will be able to make their regular wage while we wait all this out.” Subscription deliveries will be available three days a week, with low minimum orders. The bar trio is also offering food, wine, and beer delivery daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to WAB-brewed staples like Iron Maiden IPA and WAB Blonde, they also deliver national and Michigan craft beers such as Short’s and Lagunitas, in Ferndale and Royal Oak.
Brooks Brewing, another Ferndale taproom offering online ordering and delivery, delivers pizza, appetizers, and six-packs of its peanut butter porter, Molly Blonde, or Lumberjack Off within a two-mile radius.
Eastern Market Brewing Company (EMBC) has also ramped up its delivery program. Starting this weekend, the Wing It app can be used to order beer delivered from its new Ferndale Project location and some of the EMBC line. Dayne Bartscht, co-owner of EMBC, says, “We see the app and delivery program as a viable long-term business.” Delivery will be limited to Ferndale and Royal Oak to start, but Bartscht says that “as things start to move more smoothly we want to be able to deliver to a wider area.”
Browndog in Farmington and Northville is also offering delivery. The ice cream “barlor” will be open for limited carryout and delivery starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday March 17. Online ordering is available for brunch, comfort food, beer and wine, and every iteration of ice cream you can imagine.
Though at first the executive order stunned Andrew Perrotta, co-owner of Trixie’s Bar on the Hamtramck/Detroit border, he and his brother Ian Perrott soon jumped into action. They’re offering daily delivery from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., with 50 percent-off bar prices in Hamtramck and Banglatown. “It will allow us to still operate... and provide opportunities for shifts to be picked up by our staff and other people affected by the closures,” Perotta says. If demands increase, the brothers will consider expanding the hours and the delivery area.
Retail markets, restaurants, and bars have scrambled to respond to staggering changes in the industry. Businesses that hadn’t considered delivery a viable model until now may be forced to consider it in order to survive. So far, there doesn’t appear to be an influx of new SDM license applications, Vogel says in a statement, and there are no plans at this time to expedite the approvals process.
For now, the few lucky bars to have a carryout license see unexpected opportunity to keep the lights on. Many, like Perrotta, are considering delivery “the best way forward in a shitty situation.”
• Michigan Governor Orders Statewide Closure of All Restaurants and Bars for Dine-in Service [ED]
• Detroit Bartenders Get Creative With Side Gigs During Coronavirus Slowdown [ED]
• Detroit Restaurants Switch to Carryout and Delivery, Reduced Seating [ED]
• All Coronavirus Coverage [E]