Gov. Whitmer Signs Bill to Curb Binge Drinking at College Sporting Events

LANSING, Mich. – Yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation allowing alcohol to be sold at college sporting events. She also signed legislation making liquor-to-go permanent which will generate revenue for small businesses.  

“The bipartisan bills I am signing today are about fairness, safety, and revenue,” said Governor Whitmer. “Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are two of three Big Ten schools prohibited by law from selling alcohol. Authorizing the legal sale of alcohol at sporting events will bring us on equal footing with other universities, help reduce the likelihood of binge drinking before games, and bring in a heck of a lot more revenue that we can use to improve the student experience. I am proud that we are getting this done and making fall evenings at the Spartan Stadium or the Big House safer and more fun.” 

Senate Bill 247 allows issuance of liquor licenses to sporting venues on premises of public universities. Currently, 11 of the 14 Big Ten schools allow the sale of alcohol, including Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, Rutgers, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa. Before today, Michigan State University and The University of Michigan were two of only three schools in the Big Ten to prohibit the sale of alcohol at sporting events. 

Additionally, this legislation could reduce binge drinking as people would no longer drink to excess prior to the game knowing they would not have access to alcohol through the duration of their time at the game. Reports from universities that have allowed alcohol sales at sporting events indicate the number of alcohol-related incidents declined after the prohibition was lifted.   

“I applaud the Governor for recognizing the inherent fairness issues contained in Senate Bill 247 and her signature on my legislation,” said state Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo). “It is a basic issue of equality to patrons: why should VIPs get to enjoy the beverage of their choice and other attendees not?  This levels the playing field and will allow all patrons 21 and over at intercollegiate sporting events the ability to enjoy the event with the beverage of their choice.” 

Senate Bill 141 allows restaurants and others to continue serving liquor to-go. This bill makes permanent a policy made during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to help small businesses stay open while staying in line with CDC guidelines.  

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said state Senate Mallory McMorrow (D-Detroit). “When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every aspect of our lives, we knew that our small business – especially restaurants – were hit hard. Alongside colleagues, I introduced legislation in May 2020 to temporarily allow restaurants to serve “cocktails to go,” as residents stepped up to order carry-out even if they couldn’t visit their favorite restaurant in person. We’ve heard from so many restaurant owners that this additional revenue stream became a lifeline that kept them in business. Three years in, it’s proven to be a popular new way for customers to support their favorite restaurants, and has resulted in zero reported violations or safety issues. Cheers to my colleagues and the Governor for recognizing a good thing when we see it, and with the passage of Senate Bill 141, making this successful trial permanent.”  

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