Zeeland to consider loosening alcohol ordinances

Ottawa County

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Zeeland will consider changing its alcohol ordinances next week.

Until 2006, city officials say Zeeland was a dry community. To ease into allowing alcohol, city council at the time passed conservative alcohol ordinances. The rules are still in place today and are more restrictive than state guidelines.

Current city ordinances require separation or a “screen” between the bar and dining area in an establishment. They also require at least 50% of the sales are food at an establishment that serves alcohol among other things.

City council had their first reading of the amendment at their previous meeting but did not take action. They’re expected to vote during a meeting on Dec. 20. The amendment includes the following:

  • Remove cap on number of businesses that can serve/sell alcohol in the city of Zeeland, if additional sales licenses would be permitted by the state of Michigan
  • Reduce minimum number of seats in restaurants serving alcohol from 50 seats to 25 seats
  • Permitting alcohol display areas/coolers in customer waiting area or table area and permitting alcohol sales display to exceed 5% of the restaurant’s table eating and counter areas
  • Removal of bar area screening requirements 
  • Removal of food sale percentage requirements for small wineries, small distilleries and microbreweries
  • Permitting Sunday alcohol sales for special events
  • Reducing minimum age for bar tenders from age 21 to age 18
  • Eliminating requirement of entertainment permit from the city of Zeeland for establishments selling alcohol
  • Eliminating bar area percentage requirement in comparison to table or booth seating areas

“In order to provide our community with a nice blend of restaurants, some that have liquor licenses and some that don’t, we do need to pursue some of these other programs, and we have businesses that are interested in doing that,” said Abby deRoo with the city’s marketing team. 

The current rules only allow a total of four businesses to have liquor licenses in the city. deRoo says changing the ordinances could mean attracting new businesses and growing existing businesses. 

“We want to offer what our community wants and that may be a drink to go with their pizza or their hamburger and their fish and if it isn’t, that’s good with us as well,” said Tim VanderZwaag, who owns The Farmhouse.

VanderZwaag says he and his wife took over the restaurant right before the pandemic hit. He says he is grateful for the community has supported them over the last two years.

He says while he is unsure if his restaurant will serve alcohol, changing the rules could mean an opportunity to thrive for other businesses. 

“As a business owner, we want to have all businesses thrive and survive and anything that can benefit the area in the community, for the businesses to survive, especially during these tough times, I’m supportive of that,” said VanderZwaag.

Zeeland City Council will take the new proposed changes to vote on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at city hall. If approved, there’s no word on how soon businesses could start applying for liquor licenses. The city says several businesses have already expressed interest. 

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