LANSING, MI – Picture this: it’s summer in Michigan. You’re swimming in the sparkling blue water of your local public pool and you have a cool, refreshing cocktail in your hand.
That could be a possibility soon in Michigan. State lawmakers have proposed legislation that would change state law to allow swim-up bars at public pools, including hotels and other tourist attractions.
House Bills 5983 and 5984 would allow public swimming pools in Michigan to serve food and drink to swimmers under certain safety guidelines. State Rep. Rodney Wakeman, R-Frankenmuth, who co-sponsored the bills, said allowing pool bars would help boost Michigan’s tourism industry.
“Building pool bars safely will add to our economy and fill a void in our tourism industry that is currently driving people to hotels and attractions in other states,” Wakeman said in a prepared statement. “There is a lot of potential for Michigan resorts to offer swim-up bars in a safe and controlled environment.”
The bill was first introduced on April 12 at the State House, where it later passed by a vote of 101 to 3. It was sent to the Senate, where it passed committee favorably the month last. The bills are expected to appear on the Senate floor soon for a vote.
Michael Zehnder, general manager of the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, testified before the House Regulatory Reform Committee in support of the bill last month.
Business owner Frankenmuth said banning alcohol consumption in public pools puts Michigan’s tourism industry at a disadvantage when competing for tourists with other Midwestern states where bars in swimming pool are allowed.
“Neighboring states like Ohio and Wisconsin have had a competitive advantage over Michigan for years,” Zehnder said in a statement. “These attractions are just that – tourist destinations that help the industry. They are sought after, considered to be mostly relaxing and enhance a customer’s experience.
If the bills are signed into law, Michigan would become the 25th state in the nation to allow swim-up bars.
Under current state law, pool operators are prohibited from serving food and beverages at a public pool. This includes hotels, resorts and other tourist attractions.
House Bill 5983 would change the law to allow the consumption of food and beverages in public swimming pools, as long as they are served in unbreakable containers. Pool operators should also provide lifeguard services and have enhanced filtration and chemical monitoring standards.
House Bill 5984 would allow pool owners to purchase a $350 annual license that would allow them to sell and serve alcoholic beverages at a public pool.
If the bills are enacted, Zehnder said the guidelines would provide a “safe and enjoyable experience” for adults.
The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association applauded lawmakers for passing the legislation through the Senate Economic Development and Small Business Committee on May 11.
“Attracting visitors to Pure Michigan and providing the flexibility for our hotel operators to deliver unique guest experiences has never been more important as the hospitality industry landscape continues to change,” said President and CEO. MRLA executive Justin Winslow in a statement. “This legislation does just that and we look forward to approval from the Michigan Senate and Governor Whitmer to sign it before the summer break.”
The next step for the bill is for it to go before the full Senate for a vote, which will likely take place next week. It must be approved in both houses and signed by Whitmer to become law.
The bipartisan legislation was co-sponsored by Wakeman, alongside state Rep. John Cherry, D-Flint.
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