Brighton City Council members voted 3-2 to recommend awarding Scotty Simpson's Fish and Chips a Class C Quota Liquor License to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) during Thursday night's meeting.
The quota liquor license is new to the city this year due to an increase in population based on the most recent census data. The last time the city had a quota license to give out was more than 20 years ago.
The quota liquor license costs only $600 annually and is transferable as opposed to a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) redevelopment liquor license, which costs $20,000 and cannot be transferred.
Mayor Jim Muzzin and council members Larry Schillinger and Ricci Bandkau voted in favor of Scotty's, which transferred its current liquor license to Stonefire Bistro after Stone Fire lost its license due to a dispute with the former owner. The transfer is currently under review of the MLCC.
"I'm looking at this from an overall city perspective that the other three applicants have an opportunity to get a redevelopment license, and Scotty's doesn't," Muzzin said. "Scotty's does not have that option, even though they gave up willingly their own license for the better of another business. That would be my choice."
In order to qualify for a redevelopment liquor license, the business must have invested at least $75,000 in the past five years. In Scotty Simpson's case, their investment happened more than five years ago, in 2004.
A tough choice
Other applicants for the license included Two Brothers Coffee, Main Street Cheese Market and Kathleen's Cookies, which is looking to move into the former Leaf, Barley and Vine location on the corner of East North Street and Grand River Avenue in the next couple of months.
Two Brothers Coffee owner Jim Starnes had originally requested a redevelopment license, but later dropped his application, applying instead for the quota license.
Deborah Skorupski spoke on behalf of Starnes at the meeting pointing out that Two Brothers, a successful Brighton business for the last four years, was the first to apply for the quota license.
"I would simply point out that Scotty's was well within their right to transfer their liquor license to somebody else, but whether that transfer was for a monetary improvement, whether they bartered it, I'm sure they had some positive receipt for that transfer, people don't just give away liquor licenses," she said. "So in essence, what is happening is they receive a benefit for selling this liquor license and now they're coming to the board to ask for a license for free."
Council members Jim Bohn and Claudia Roblee cast the two dissenting votes. Council member Shawn Pipoly abstained and Mayor Pro-Tem Chad Cooper was absent from the meeting.
"This is a difficult decision and I don't know if the government should be in the business of picking winners and losers," Bohn said. "They should be trying to make the playing field level and ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity."
Bohn said that Two Brothers made a valid point about whether Scotty's benefited from the liquor license transfer, but that Starnes had said during the December meeting that he would go after the redevelopment liquor license. Instead, Bohn favored Jennifer Saum, owner of Main Street Cheese Market
"In my mind, based on what I read, that's someone who could use our help," he said. "Even though the DDA license might be available, financially, she may not have the money to apply for that. Leaf, Barley and Vine, there's a liquor license at that location right now where a transfer may be worked out so there's an alternative there."
Do you agree with City Council's decision to award the quota liquor license to Scotty Simpson's? Why or why not?