A rather unusual item came up on the agenda for the April 12th East Lansing Planning Commission meeting. The matter involves changing the Zoning Code of the City of East Lansing to allow for extended-care facilities to be licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages and alcoholic liquor.
Darcy Schmitt, Senior Planner with the City of East Lansing, explained at the Planning Commission meeting that the State Liquor Control Code had been recently updated to allow for liquor licenses to be distributed to extended-care facilities. But the State is making only five licenses of this type available for the entire state of Michigan at this time. Burcham Hills in East Lansing is hoping to obtain one of the five.
According to Scott Breen, an attorney working on behalf of Burcham Hills, the facility was the first applicant to the State the day after the code was amended, but they were told that their application couldn’t be accepted until the concept had been approved locally. Currently East Lansing’s Code doesn’t allow for alcohol sales at extended-care facilities. Hence the request that East Lansing’s Code be changed.
Abdullah Masood, director of operations for Burcham Hills, told the Commission it is important for the facility to be in compliance with all laws. He said the staff at Burcham Hills is seeking the opportunity to serve alcohol to residents and guests “at meals and special occasions” if they so desire.
Planning Commissioner Don Davis speculated that the reason the number of licenses to be granted was so low was perhaps because this was a kind of experiment on behalf of the State. He called the decision to allow the sale of alcohol at extended care facilities a “no brainer,” and expressed his hope that the change would be supported by his fellow Commissioners.
Commissioner John Cahill shared a personal anecdote about a facility in New York where his wife’s father stayed following a stroke. He said that at first he thought it odd that there would be a bar in a care facility, but said that he ultimately felt it gave the residents a sense of normalcy to be able to have a social drink in the evening.
“When we moved back to East Lansing seven years ago,” Cahill said to the Commission, “I told Irene [Cahill’s wife] that this would be my last move until I moved down to Burcham Hills, so I’d like to have a bar there, too.”
The Commission quickly voted to suspend the normal order of operations in order to take action on this item that night, and it passed unanimously without debate. Because the meeting had a very full agenda and ended up going on until almost one o’clock in the morning, late in the meeting Commissioners started joking about being ready to move to Burcham Hills for a drink.
The matter now moves to City Council where it is scheduled for a public hearing on May 9. Council is likely to take action on the item that night.
Photo courtesy City of East Lansing.