Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Mixed message
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Mixed message

Rick Coates - November 22nd, 2010
Mixed Message: Why is BYOB okay at TC events, but not at restaurants?
By Rick Coates
Earlier this year when the Traverse City Police Department began enforcing a confusing Michigan statute on alcohol consumed at non-licensed establishments, mixed messages were sent throughout the community.
For instance, will stores be allowed to serve alcohol at the popular downtown Traverse City Men’s Night (December 16), as has been the tradition in past years?
How about the tailgating with alcohol that takes place at every high school football game at Thirlby Field, also in the city limits? What about tailgating at Interlochen prior to concerts?
According to the interpretation of various Michigan statutes by officers of the Traverse City Police Department, all of these events would be a violation of Michigan laws, possibly resulting in a misdemeanor for the consumer and a felony for the establishment.
The legal underpinning is called “consideration,” which occurs whenever an establishment gives away or allows someone to bring alcohol onto their property when they are collecting money for an event, selling merchandise or a meal.

But the practice of bringing your own bottle (BYOB) to events, concerts and restaurants has been going on for years, not only in Northern Michigan, but around the state.
Art galleries and book stores routinely offer complimentary wine at opening night receptions and book signings. For years, several restaurants in the region have allowed patrons to bring their own bottle of wine for dinner. Some are continuing this practice today: despite recent warnings from the Traverse City Police, three establishments within the city limits still allow patrons to bring in their own wine.
In a survey of restaurants and event venues around Northern Michigan, 24 admitted they have a BYOB program. All said their businesses would suffer if they stopped allowing patrons to bring in their own alcohol.
The Traverse City Police did not respond to interview requests, but Mayor Chris Bzdok said, “we have not had any complaints or inquiries on this matter at the City Commission, so I am not in a position to comment on this matter or what our position would be.”
Some of the confusion over the BYOB practice comes as a result of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission issuing a statement on their website that stated “they have no jurisdiction over non-licensed establishments and the enforcement of such laws remain with local law enforcement agencies.”
However, many communities are turning a blind eye to policing sobriety laws. For instance, several restaurants in trendy suburban Detroit communities openly advertise BYOB policies. And go to any college town in Michigan on a football Saturday and tailgating and open intoxicants run rampant, not only on college campuses but city streets.

When Matt Hunter opened the Soul Hole in Traverse City earlier this year his location was too small to acquire a liquor license. So he assumed he could allow his patrons to bring their own wine and beer into his restaurant.
“I called the Liquor Control Commission in Lansing and they told me it was a ‘local’ thing and up to the community you were operating in,” said Hunter. “So I knew that The Cooks’ House, InsideOut Gallery and others were doing it, so I figured it was acceptable here in Traverse City.”
As was the case with those other establishments, he soon received a visit from local police.
“I was quoted in a newspaper article saying that we were encouraging people to bring their wine,” said Hunter. “The next day the police came with documentation saying what I was doing was illegal. They were friendly about it and explained that there had been complaints and that the prosecutors office said we and others would no longer be able to continue.”
Hunter and others speculate that another restaurant in the area filed the complaint. Richard Smith, owner of Leo’s Lounge in Petoskey and a board member of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association agrees with the speculation.
“When times are tough people pay closer attention to their competition, so it doesn’t surprise me that someone would complain,” said Smith. “I see both sides of the issue, but there is an issue of liability here. If a place allows you to bring in wine and a person leaves intoxicated and drives and gets in an accident, who is liable? These establishments do not have liquor liability insurance like those of us who have licenses.”

But for Hunter and others who are starting small restaurants (a business model that is growing in popularity in the U.S., Europe and Latin America), they are either too small to qualify for a liquor license or their operation wouldn’t support the fees and costs associated with having a license.
“My restaurant is a few seats short of what is required in Michigan for a license,” said Hunter. “There is a proposal to lower the seating requirement. But even if that happens my space is so small that I don’t have room to set up a bar and to store beer and wine. My cellar had been across the street at Maxbauer’s Market. I would send my patrons over there to get wine and beer. Now I can’t. So I am not sure what I am going to do.”
The Soul Hole, The Cooks’ House and InsideOut Gallery -- the three establishments singled out -- are looking for clarity and consistency in this issue.
“First of all, this is not being enforced elsewhere in Grand Traverse County and Northern Michigan,” said Eric Patterson of The Cooks’ House. “What I don’t understand is why other businesses in Traverse City are allowed to give away alcohol to get customers into their shops and I am not allowed to have my customers bring wine in to enjoy with dinner. I am not giving it away and I am told I can’t, but others in this town can give it away -- this makes no sense. We should look at what several other states are doing where BYOB is allowed. Even Pennsylvania, which is more conservative than Michigan, allows BYOB.”
Several states have provisions for BYOB for both licensed and unlicensed establishments. Illinois, California, Texas and Tennessee all of have progressive BYOB laws. Wisconsin is similar to Michigan where there is a law on the books that prohibits BYOB. The penalty for breaking the law is a $10,000 fine and up to nine months in jail.
But Wisconsin’s law prohibiting BYOB is rarely enforced. Why? The economy was the primary reason given in a recent article in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal.

To read Part One of the BYOB issue, go to our features archive section of

Attorney General’s View on BYOB:

In 2008, State Representative Patrick Green asked Attorney General Mike Cox to rule on whether barbershops in Grand Rapids could continue their long tradition of offering a complimentary beer to their clients. The Attorney General turned the matter over to the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division for review and in a five page letter back to Representative Green, Cox essentially said no to unlicensed establishments, but gave some leeway to local communities by concluding his letter this way: “The power for local communities to enforce alcoholic beverage traffic is extremely broad. In order for a person to provide complimentary beer to patrons visiting its barbershops, the person may only do so with the required licensing or other permission from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.”
Last week the Attorney General was asked whether his opinion also applied to other businesses in addition to barbershops, such as unlicensed restaurants and entertainment venues that allow people to bring their own bottles of wine. Also whether other businesses can offer free alcoholic beverages to attract customers without a license and whether entertainment and sports venues are allowed to let paying patrons tailgate on the venue property.
Cox made this statement:
“According to MCL 436.1913 of the Liquor Control Code, Michigan prohibits the consumption of alcoholic liquor (beer, wine or spirits) on any premises or place for “consideration” unless the premises are licensed by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to allow consumption on the premises,” said Cox. “It is, however, important to note that unlicensed establishments fall under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, not the state Liquor Control Commission. I recommend you consult local law enforcement or the county prosecutor if you have questions about whether a certain venue complies with Michigan law.”
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