Letter: Michigan's alcohol control benefits businesses and buyers

The Detroit News

A recent column in The Detroit News distorts the facts about Michigan’s three-tier system for alcohol distribution and calls for changes that could put independent, locally owned, bars, restaurants and party stores out of business (Re: "Michigan's alcohol control benefit monopolies, not buyers," Oct. 1.) They would also upend a system that has made Michigan not just the Great Lakes State — but also The Great Beer, Wine and Spirits State.

Here are the facts: Michigan’s alcohol distribution system promotes choice and competition by preventing large out-of-state and foreign alcohol producers, big box retailers and national chain restaurants from having a monopoly on the alcohol market.

Michigan’s alcohol distribution system promotes choice and competition, Nevins writes.

Michigan is among the top 10 states for the number of breweries and wineries with 400 breweries and brewpubs and more than 190 wineries. We also have a burgeoning craft distilling industry, boasting more than 60 distillers across the state. These spirit, beer and winemakers bring home dozens of awards every year showing Michigan isn’t just about quantity when it comes to alcohol production — it’s about quality too.

All of these success stories stemming from hops, vines and barrels wouldn’t be possible without our three-tier system for beer and wine and controlled state model for liquor, which promotes fairness and a level playing field.

If you need evidence, look no further than the liquor section of your local grocery store.

Michigan residents are greeted with a dizzying array of options of beer, wine and spirits produced right here in Michigan, across the country and around the world. For example, over 1,500 producers of beer compete on a daily basis for shelf space and tap handles in over 18,000 licensed accounts in Michigan. No other industry comes close to that level of competition!

Michigan’s current system is a win-win-win for producers, retailers and consumers.

Breweries, wineries and distillers have access to retailers through a system that encourages growth, choice and competition. Retailers big and small are able to showcase some of the most sought-after beer, wine and spirits — many of which are produced right here in Michigan.

In the end, consumers are the biggest winners of all. After all, they didn’t always have the same options they do today.

In 1997, when Michigan’s controlled state model was first instituted for the distribution of spirits, there were roughly 600 kinds of spirits available at retailers across the state. Fast forward to today, and distributors are transporting more than 10,000 different types of spirits to retailers in Monroe in the southeast corner of the state to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula — and all points in between.

Michigan’s beer, wine and spirits distributors come in all shapes and sizes. From statewide distributors with facilities dotted across the state who employ hundreds of people to small, niche distributors who employ just a handful of people. Regardless of size and reach, there are no caps or limits on the number of distributors that can operate in Michigan.

It’s abundantly clear: Our state’s three-tier and controlled state systems have made Michigan the great beer, wine and spirits state it is today and will be integral to its future success.

Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association