Alcohol Beverage, Torree J. Breen

You’ve Been Served a Liquor Violation – Now What?

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Most people fail to understand the great expense and the time consuming complexities of having to file an application requesting permission to own a license to sell alcohol in the State of Michigan.  It not only takes time to file an abundance of paperwork with the Commission, but often also involves a thorough investigation by Commission.  The licenses are not easily obtained and are usually the main source of the owner’s income.  So not only is it frustrating to receive a Liquor Control Commission Complaint, it is a threat to the owner’s financial survival. Before admitting responsibility to the violation, you should consider all options available to you.

Once served with the Complaint by the Commission, most license owners are tempted to admit the allegations in the complaint and to pay the fee assessed by the Commission with the violation to avoid the expense and time of a hearing before the Commission.  Before doing so, it is important to understand that there are certain violations in which admitting liability may jeopardize your license, if you receive future citations for similar offenses.  For example, if caught serving and/or selling to a minor and/or intoxicated person, the Commission may revoke your license if you have three violations for serving/selling to minors and/or intoxicated persons within a two year period.

Even if you are tempted to admit the allegations and pay the fine to avoid a hearing before the Commission, it is prudent to seek advice from an attorney with knowledge of defending against liquor control commission violations or, at minimum, to contact your Association to assess the facts and circumstances behind the allegations and the potential ramifications to you admitting the allegations with the Commission.  You should always understand what kind of sanctions may be assessed for your accepting responsibility. In addition, the attorney or Association can also give you advice based on their personal experience with the Commission.  The attorney or Association can also help you to implement changes to your businesses’ policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Commission’s rules and expectations. It has always been the goal of the Commission to ensure alcohol is served and sold in compliance with the liquor control code.  The Commission encourages positive changes to protect Michigan residents against the unlawful consumption, sale, and/or transfer of alcohol.

If you decide to dispute the allegations, you are entitled to a hearing before a Commissioner.  The Commission will expect you to be ready to present your case on the date that the hearing is scheduled. You should be prepared and have all of your witnesses and evidence ready.  You are also allowed to appeal the Commissioner’s decision and request an appellate hearing before all three Commissioners.

Knowledge is the key to understanding how you should respond.  No one should accept responsibility for a violation without having all of the information available to them.  Any further questions, you should contact your Association and utilize the services available to you to preserve your license.