Let there be beer lights

The end of a ban in place since the end of Prohibition allows Michigan bars, restaurants and retailers to hang neon signs in their windows.

Attoney General Mike Cox ruled that the 70-year-old law against illuminated signage was a constitutional free speech violation. The opinion affects signs for all alcoholic beverages, though most are for beer.

Bar and restaurant owners praised the decision, saying the Michigan Liquor Control Commission ban on lighted signs, clocks and other beer-related knick-knacks was an unreasonable restriction on commercial speech and advertising freedom.

Louis Adado, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said the rule was arbitrary. Michigan was only one of a few states with such a ban. “It’s just one less regulation that our members have to put up with,” Adado said.

The opinion does not throw out another old rule, one that prohibits breweries and beer wholesalers from providing free merchandise to licensed retailers and bar owners.

Michael Lashbrook of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, which has long supported the ban on lighted signs, says free distribution of the signs would give larger producers of alcoholic beverages an unfair advantage over smaller brewers and wineries.

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