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Cheers! Bill would allow Michigan bars to peddle booze & beer until 4 a.m.

The House bill mirrors one introduced last fall; advocates say allowing bars to stay open longer will help them recoup losses from pandemic shutdowns.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As financial losses tied to coronavirus shutdowns continue to plague legions of Michigan businesses, a proposal that would allow bars to serve drinks until 4 a.m. bears consideration.

That from Jeff Lodbell, president of a business that has 12 bars and restaurants in Grand Rapids and five in Traverse City. 

“I’d have to consider if I’d want to be open that late, but it would be nice if we had that option,’’ he said. “That might help recoup some of the lost revenue. We are suffering.’’

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association estimates that 3,000 restaurants have closed and 300,000 people in the industry have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

House Bill 4115, introduced earlier this month, would allow bars to stay open and serve alcohol until 4 a.m. if a city or township passes a resolution permitting the change.

A similar bill was introduced last fall. It was approved in the House, but the legislative session ended before it could advance.

Michigan, like many other states, has a 2 a.m. cutoff. But that long-standing closing time has been adjusted due to the pandemic.

After being closed to indoor dining since mid-November, Michigan bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen Feb. 1 with a 10 p.m. curfew. The state extended the curfew and a 25% capacity order through the end of March.

“The virus doesn’t go away at 10 p.m.,’’ Lobdell said. “We certainly need to be open much later, particularly those fellow restaurateurs that have bars.’’

Dealing with prolonged state restrictions has been frustrating, he said. Restaurants in neighboring states have become a magnet for Michigan residents fed up with state mandates.

“It’s just ridiculous the amount of restrictions we have compared to the other people in our region,’’ Lobdell said. “It would be nice if we could compete on the same level when it comes to hospitality and tourism.’’

Allowing bars the option to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. is a way to help generate revenue following what Lobdell says has been a catastrophic year for the industry.

"I think the 4 a.m. option would really help a lot of bar owners,’’ he said. “What I’ve heard recently is close to 4,000 restaurants – when it is all said and done, will have perished.’’

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