By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) issued an emergency suspension of Birdies Indoor Golf & Bar’s liquor license and permits last week for violating the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Emergency Order on Gatherings and Face Masks. An emergency suspension hearing was scheduled for Monday (Feb. 8) after press time.
The suspension was based on an investigation conducted Jan. 29 at the indoor golf simulator located at 980 N. Lapeer Rd. in Oxford. Specifically, the Commission suspended its Class C license, and its permits for Sunday Sales.
The licensee’s alleged multiple violations of the emergency order include: allowing non-residential, indoor gatherings; providing indoor dining; and failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons.
Despite the general prohibition on indoor gatherings, the updated MDHHS order allowed “lower risk entertainment facilities” and “lower and moderate risk recreational facilities” to permit indoor gatherings under certain conditions, including operating at 20% capacity and prohibiting the sale and consumption of food and beverage on the premises. Birdies qualified as a lower risk recreational facility, but not for an exception permitting it to serve food and beverage indoors.
On Jan. 8, an investigator from the MLCC’s Enforcement Division inspected the establishment in response to a complaint from the local health department regarding alleged violations of the MDHHS order. Upon arrival, the investigator observed several unmasked patrons inside, with some consuming alcoholic beverages and failing to maintain adequate social distancing, according to the suspension order.
The investigator returned to the establishment at approximately 5:45 p.m. Jan. 29, escorted by deputies from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. The report stated the investigator observed nine persons seated at the bar who were not seated at least six feet apart and were not wearing face masks. The persons observed sitting at the bar were consuming alcoholic beverages and consuming food despite that the MDHHS order prohibited such activities. In total, 17 patrons were allowed to gather in the bar area near the front of the establishment. All of the patrons were observed drinking alcoholic beverages.
The investigator also reported that six of the indoor golf stalls were occupied by patrons who were not wearing masks. Additionally, the rear recreation area contained seven dining tables located between the indoor golf stalls, and alcoholic beverages were on each of the seven tables.
In total, there were 45 patrons and three employees located inside the establishment. Neither the patrons nor the staff wore masks. The establishment was approved for 99 occupants and was thus operating at nearly 50% capacity.
While the investigator documented her observations with video footage, Birdies’ owner Thomas Morrisey approached and asked whether there was a problem. The investigator advised Morrisey that the licensed establishment was violating the MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order, despite previously being advised to comply with the order. Morrisey admitted he previously received requests to cease and desist indoor gatherings, according to the report.
A post-suspension hearing was scheduled for Feb. 8, via Zoom, to determine whether this suspension should continue or other fines and penalties should be imposed. Violations of the Gatherings and Face Mask Order constitute misdemeanors and are punishable by up to six months imprisonment and certain fines.
Notably, the updated January 22, 2021 MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order allows indoor dining as of February 1, 2021, subject to capacity, curfew, face mask, social distancing and other restrictions.
Since September 2020, the MLCC has suspended liquor licenses of a total of 39 establishments located throughout the state for violations of the Executive and Emergency Orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By James Hanlon