Unless served at a private, invite-only, outdoor event, alcoholic beverages cannot be advertised for sale in unlimited quantities, according to state law.
That pitcher of mimosas you’re enjoying at Sunday brunch might get your favorite restaurant in trouble.
“Bottomless” mimosas, Bloody Marys, bellinis, and other alcoholic beverages – or any other adjective akin to bottomless – are illegal in Michigan. And have been for some time now.
At BLAC, we’ve heard rumblings from local restaurateurs about crackdowns on bottomless brouhahas, and we’ve seen a social media post or two about alleged undercover operatives busting up brunches, so we decided to contact the State of Michigan’s licensing and regulatory affairs department – the state’s liquor control commission is under this agency, by the way – to get some clarification.
One, let’s take a look at the law, which can be read in full here on the State of Michigan's website. Per MLC 436.2014, which defines the sale of alcohol in certain quantities, alcoholic beverages can only be served in an “unlimited” quantity if the establishment is holding a private event at a specific date and time and local law enforcement is aware of said event. (Oh, and the private function must be invitation-only, not open to the general public, and held outdoors.)
Any other time? The law states that “an on premises licensee” – that’s anyone with a liquor license – “shall not sell, offer to sell, or advertise the sale of an unlimited quantity of alcoholic liquor at a specific price.” That includes your favorite brunch spot’s $12.99 “bottomless” Cook’s and Simply Orange concoction.
(And there’s more! Those of us that – ahem – are a little overly familiar with bar rules against having two especially strong drinks, like a Long Island Iced Tea, will realize why that is after reading this part of the law: “An on premises licensee shall not sell, offer to sell, or advertise the sale of 2 or more identical drinks containing alcoholic liquor to an individual for the individual’s consumption for 1 price. If 2 or more identical drinks containing alcoholic liquor are served to an individual at 1 time, the price charged for the second and each additional drink must be the same as the price charged for the first drink.”)
So what does that mean for restaurants? We all got a little used to “bottomless” marketing; Eater Detroit and Metro Times, among others, have handy-dandy guides to the best bottomless brunches around. Seems the easy way around the rule is to offer DIY bars where each glass is priced accordingly. (The Bloody Mary bars at Cork in Pleasant Ridge and Bronx Bar in Detroit, and the mimosa bar at Bobcat Bonnie’s in Detroit are a few top-of-mind examples.)
But is the state actually sending undercover officers to brunch? BLAC talked to a LARA communications rep who said while the state will use additional surveillance of liquor stores that sell to minors, enforcement of the “bottomless” rule will usually come if there’s a complaint filed against an establishment.
“We always look to administer the code,” our rep says. “The problem is essentially without a violation of the code or somebody sending in a complaint, we’re really unable to know if anything has happened.”
There you have it.