As chair and vice-chair of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee, we know firsthand the importance of the three-tier system of alcohol distribution in Michigan and across the country. A recent column on what the three-tier system accomplishes misses the mark. Here’s why.
The three-tier system promotes fairness and increases competition. You don’t have to travel far to find examples of this. Take a stroll through any grocery store and you will see what happens when monopolies crowd out shelf space from small, independent producers. Pop, chips and toothpaste all come to mind. Sure, there are plenty of choices, but they’re all made by two or three companies.
If you want to see what true variety looks like, then look down the beer aisle.
You will see recognizable favorites from Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, but you’ll also see regional and local craft brands on the shelves right next to them. That’s because the three-tier system prevents large out-of-state and foreign companies from having a monopoly on the alcohol market and opens the door for small craft producers.
The same can be said for the wine aisle, where national brands sit on shelves alongside regional and local favorites.
Even with a system in place that helps producers big and small compete, grow and thrive on a level playing field, there are still bad actors trying to game the system.
It was recently reported that nearly 160,000 bottles of wine were illegally shipped into Michigan by out-of-state retailers during a three month stretch last year. And more than 700,000 bottles of wine were illegally shipped into the state throughout 2019.
This is a serious problem that robs our state of much-needed tax revenue and takes business away from mom-and-pop retailers who pay taxes and give back to the communities we serve.
Without a system of checks and balances, this would be an even bigger problem and result in the closure of countless specialty bottle shops, corner stores and local grocery stores and all but grind the growth of the craft beer and wine industry — not just in Michigan, but across the United States — to a halt.
That’s not the American way.
We’re proud to represent districts in a state that provides beer and wine makers big and small with equal footing and an equal opportunity to compete for shelf and tap handle space at stores, bars and restaurants across the state.
Our home state isn’t just the Great Lakes State. It’s also the Great Beer and Wine State. Michigan is a Top 10 producer of beer and wine in the country and ranks sixth for most breweries and wineries, respectively. And that’s thanks in large part to a system that promotes fairness and a level playing field.
Rep. Roger Hauck, R-Union Township, represents Michigan’s 99th State House district and serves as chair of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee.
Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, represents Michigan’s 18th House district and serves as minority vice-chair of the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee.