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Michigan Governor Reportedly Considering a Liquor Refund to Bail Out Restaurants and Bars

Under the proposal, restaurants and bars could receive money back for liquor purchased in the weeks prior to Michigan’s novel coronavirus outbreak

The bar sign on the red-tiled entrance to Willis Show Bar seen at twilight.
The state is mulling over a possible refund for liquor sales made in the weeks prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Michigan.
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Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is reportedly contemplating a bar and restaurant bailout through liquor distributors. According to Crain’s, the governor’s office is considering a proposal in which the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) would provide refunds for liquor purchased by restaurants and bars in the weeks prior to the state’s dine-in closure mandate.

Under the plan, state liquor distributors would theoretically pay restaurants and bars for their liquor purchases, but the businesses wouldn’t be required to return the product. The idea behind the proposal, which mirrors a similar policy implemented by the state of Ohio, is to infuse businesses with the cash they need to reopen once social distancing rules are loosened.

Although some restaurants have managed to stay open with carryout and delivery service, many food industry businesses have opted to close in recent weeks due to low sales and concern for the safety of customers and employees. Still, many restaurants continue to face costs such as rent, utilities, supplier bills, and, in some cases, employee health care. At the same time, many grant programs and small business loan programs are being overwhelmed with applications.

A spokesperson for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the MLCC, confirmed to Crain’s that the plan was under discussion.

Meanwhile, members of Michigan’s beverage industry are calling for the state to loosen laws surrounding take-out beer, wine, and cocktails with the goal of providing revenue to shuttered bars and restaurants.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at

Whitmer Mulling Cash Bailout for Bars, Restaurants Through Liquor Buyback [Crain’s]
Michigan Bar Owners and Distillers Petition the State to Allow Sales of To-Go Cocktails [ED]
How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Detroit Food and Beverage Industry [ED]
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]