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Michigan Retirement Facilities May Now Qualify for Liquor License

September 26, 2011

A new statutory “non quota” liquor license designed exclusively to meet the needs of senior residential communities in Michigan is now available – in limited quantities. Until recently, Michigan residents residing in senior residential communities who wanted to enjoy a zinfandel, Bloody Mary, cold beer or other alcoholic drink were prohibited from purchasing or obtaining it from their retirement facility, as these residential communities generally failed to qualify for a liquor license. The essential problem these communities historically faced centered on the public nature of the on-premises license, and the private nature of these centers.

Most if not all senior retirement facilities are privately owned and do not generally provide open access to the public, for security and privacy reasons. On-premises (Class C) licenses, which are required in order to allow the owners or operators of these facilities to furnish alcohol to the residents, are licenses of “public accommodation”, which means that any entity, whether for profit or nonprofit, that desires to provide alcohol as part of its menu, must make the facility open for access to the public to enter in order to also purchase and consume alcohol. Retirement facilities therefore were faced with a very difficult choice: either render their restaurant or on-site grill dry from alcohol or obtain a license but permit the general public the right to enter the facilities and purchase an alcoholic drink.

This year, the state adopted legislation that solved the problem for retirement communities that qualify as a “Nonpublic Continuing Care Retirement Center.” If the community meets the state mandates, it possesses the right to apply to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for a nonpublic continuing care retirement center license (“License”). The licensing requirements are not easy and require satisfaction with a number of different statutory requirements. First, the center must meet the definition as a nonpublic continuing care retirement center, second, it must be registered under the living care disclosure act, and third, it must provide full time residential housing for individuals who are over the age of 62.

The number of licenses is limited: by statute, the state has the right to license no more than 20 retirement facilities statewide. Therefore, the ability to obtain a license is not only limited to those centers who fit the various requirements, but also those retirement centers fortunate enough to beat their competitors to the MLCC with a successful application. The Varnum Hospitality group is uniquely qualified to assist in this process, as we have been in constant contact with the legislators and their legislative aides during the entire bill drafting and legislative process. We have submitted one of the first applications with the state for a license. To determine if your facility qualifies, please contact Christopher Baker at the Novi Varnum office at 248/567-7425.

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