Council Votes Against Gutting 50-50 rule

Tuesday night, by a 3-2 vote, Council voted not to suspend reporting on the 50-50, food versus alcohol, rule. Boyle and Beard joined Loomis in keeping the reporting in place.

The citizens of East Lansing should be grateful. I am very disappointed at Diane Goddeeris for letting herself be persuaded by Triplett on a matter that was clearly intended to have a negative impact on health and safety by encouraging more alcohol consumption.

Forget the spin. This was an attempt to increase the sale of booze to those who do not know how to or do not want to drink responsibly. It was an attempt to help developers fill their commercial space with bars, in a market where it is very hard to fill commercial space with businesses that would be more desirable to responsible citizens.

If there is a better alternative to the 50-50 rule to help keep boozing within limits, it too will entail curtailing the amount of booze that can be sold, and the same people who are lobbying against the 50-50 will lobby against any alternative.

Triplett is making a utter fool or himself by spouting off that the 50-50 rule is keeping restaurants, fine-dining even, out of East Lansing. If anything, the rule plays to the advantage of restaurants, because college bars that cater to heavy drinking drive up commercial rents.

Responsible people don't drink and drive. If they go to a restaurant with a liquor license and have a drink with their meal, they drink moderately. That means they almost always spend more on food than drink. I suppose if you order a $100 bottle of champagne, you might spend more on liquor, but if fine-dining establishments are counting on that kind of clientele, they won't last a week.

Gutting the 50-50 rule is about one thing only: selling more booze to boozers.

Triplett has no credibility on this issue, or any other issue involving the special interests of barkeeps or politically connected developers, because his ties to them are well-documented. Same goes for the Planning Department.

If law enforcement, health and safety professionals, responsible drinking organizations, or neighborhood associations, want to seek a more effective approach to limiting boozing than the 50-50 rules -- though it appears the starting point is tougher enforcement -- they would have credibility.

By next fall, there will probably be ten or eleven licensed establishments, plus one party store, in just the Abbot-Albert-Ann-M.A.C. stretch of downtown (not counting the genuine restaurant in the Marriott). Of these, all but El Azteco, now under new ownership of the owner of Dublin Square (so it may change), Beggar's Banquet (which is much more of a student bar and less a fine restaurant than it was), and perhaps the newly approved Black Cat Bistro, if it keeps its word of aiming at a more mature dining crowd, are anything but establishments catering to young adult drinkers. With the former City Center II site and perhaps the Park District, if anything comes of the RFQP, there will be a push for even more bars -- remember how the "fine-dining" establishment in City Center II morphed into a student sports bar.

The 50-50 rule may be far from perfect (no one claims it has achieved the goal of responsible drinking, just that matters might be much worse without it), but it is all we have. This is not about a "burdensome" regulation. This about people who want to sell more booze to make more money thinking Triplett and their Planning Department friends can deliver for them. Let's give a big round of applause for the three responsible members of Council who said no, with a special thanks to Vic Loomis for his leadership and integrity on this issue.

We are living in some kind of parallel universe, where the only businessman on Council is the one supporting a regulation that eats into profits, because he is more concerned with the public good, while an alleged Democrat is the one complaining a regulation intended to protect the public good is "burdensome" and harming business. But, I seriously doubt Triplett is acting solely on pro-business ideology.
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