Michigan keg law repealed. Lesson: Kegs are less harmful than booze.


State lawmakers on Wednesday reversed a law that required purchases of beer kegs to register with the store. It was intended to hold buyers accountable for underage drinking.

LANSING — Keg beer may be ready for a boom in Michigan.

The state House on Wednesday voted 106-0 to repeal a state law requiring ID tags be attached to kegs of beer sold by retailers. The unanimous action follows a similar one in the Senate in May, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

The tag requirement, first passed in 2010, was supposed to curb underage drinking at parties. The law requires people buying kegs to show ID and sign for the purchase, and requires stores to slap a state-issued tag on the keg. The intent was to leave a paper trail that would allow police to more easily trace who bought the beer for minors and hold them accountable. The law also allows stores to keep the customer’s deposit if the tag is missing when the keg is returned.

But lawmakers now say the law, while well-meaning, is a failed social experiment. Rather than curtailing binge drinking, the law instead sent some young partiers in search of hard liquor or cases of beer that were less difficult to obtain.

“It was not a success,” said state Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, who introduced the repeal bill in the Senate and whose family owns a grocery business. “It just shows that everybody took a look at it and realized that it wasn’t working.”

Those who wanted to repeal the tag law included retailers, but also University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, who has been outspoken on the perils of high-risk student drinking. As he told Bridge in September in an article on the unintended consequences of the law, students were switching from 10-proof beer to 80-percent vodka.

MORE COVERAGE: Michigan college students are binging on booze. Time for more kegs

“It’s very difficult to drink enough beer to become toxic,” Schlissel told Bridge. “It isn’t difficult to drink enough vodka to get toxic.”

Retailers, meanwhile, say the law has been a headache. Aside from the paperwork, some stores have lost kegs because customers fail to return them if the tag falls off and they know their deposit won’t be refunded, according to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency. It can cost close to $150 for a retailer to replace each lost keg.

Bridge has written about the lure, and perils, of binge drinking on college campuses across Michigan. To see the full report, go to: Game Day: Michigan struggles with college drinking.

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Russell Mack
Thu, 10/26/2017 - 11:58am

As a bar owner I fail to see how it can cost $150 for a retailer to replace a lost keg. I don't have carry out but I do have draft beer. My distributor charges me $30 deposit on a keg. If I return it I get my $30 back, if not I am out $30. Have no idea where the $150 came from.

C Marcus
Fri, 10/27/2017 - 11:03pm

Finally I will resume sales of kegs, while continuing to show disgression. Thus wS a burden on retailers from the the start.

Sat, 10/28/2017 - 11:49am

"...students were switching from 10-proof beer to 80-percent vodka."
I get the point that was being made, but most vodka is 80 proof (40%). Just sayin'