Proposed bills would allow for swim-up bars in Michigan

Michigan House approves bipartisan effort to boost state’s tourism industry Tuesday

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Republican State Rep. Rodney Wakeman D-Saginaw County said Michigan's tourism industry works at a disadvantage because other Midwestern states like Ohio allow swim-up bars.

Republican State Rep. Rodney Wakeman D-Saginaw County said Michigan's tourism industry works at a disadvantage because other Midwestern states like Ohio allow swim-up bars.

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Swim-up bars could become a reality at tourist destinations in Michigan under legislation introduced by state Rep. Rodney Wakeman D-Saginaw County and state Rep. John Cherry D-Flint. 

Introduced on April 12, 2022, Wakeman's House Bill 5983 aims to update state laws to allow swim-up bars to operate in Michigan while following certain safety guidelines. Under the proposed legislation, the swim-up bars must serve beverages in non-breakable containers, provide lifeguards and enhance pool filtration.

Wakeman said Michigan's tourism industry works at a disadvantage because other Midwestern states allow swim-up bars.

"Safely accommodating swim-up bars will add to our economy and fill a void in our tourism industry that currently drives people to hotels and attractions in other states," Wakeman said in a press release issued by the GOP on Tuesday. "There is a lot of potential for resorts in Michigan to offer swim-up bars in a safe, controlled environment."

Both bills passed the Michigan House on Tuesday and advance to the Senate for further consideration. There is also a petition circulating on change.org with 1,799 signatures to allow commercial resort-style pools in Michigan to open swim-up bars.

Michael Zehnder, general manager at the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, recently joined Wakeman in Lansing to testify in support of the plan before the House Regulatory Reform Committee, according to the release. He noted that swim-up bars operate worldwide and in 24 states.

"Neighboring states like Ohio and Wisconsin have had a competitive advantage over Michigan for years," Zehnder said in the release. "These attractions are just that – tourist destinations that help the industry. They’re sought after, considered relaxing to most and elevate a guest’s experience."

Zehnder welcomed the inclusion of guidelines to protect the public’s safety.

"We can provide a safe and enjoyable experience for our adult guests if permitted," he continued.

House Bill 5983 isn't Wakeman's first piece of legislation to involve a change in the Michigan liquor control code.

In Sept. 2021, Wakeman introduced House Bill 5304 to authorize the use of robo-bartender alcoholic dispensing machines in restaurants and hotels to dispense liquor directly to customers at a table or booth in restaurants, and in the bedroom or suite of a hotel.

The bill was passed by the House on Feb. 17, 2022, and awaits a decision from the Senate.