Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Labor Day Weekend Activities

31. August 2007 • Juliew
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Watch students move in from now until classes start on Tuesday, September 4. Make sure to look both ways on one way streets!

On Friday, pay homage to New Orleans by listening to Dixieland jazz from the Easy Street Jazz Band at happy hour at the Firefly Club’s new South Main Street location. Rumor has it that the Firefly Club won’t get their liquor license until next week, but there is plenty of liquor in the neighborhood since you will only be a block from Leopold Brothers and their “world class liqueurs, flavored whiskeys, vodka and gin.”

On Saturday, go to UM Football’s home opener against Appalachian State. For the first time in ages, you’ll actually have to go to the game to see it. Local cable company Comcast won’t be carrying the game on TV.

Football not your thing? How about sustainable foods? The Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guided Tour of America will be in Ann Arbor during the day Saturday and then head off to Ypsi for a Pie Lovers Unite pie festival at 7:00pm.

On Sunday, head downtown to learn a new dance or do some serious people-watching at Dancing in the Streets which starts promptly at 1:45pm.

The weather should be perfect for all events. Enjoy!

  1. Note to the rabble: no can do on the whiskeys at Leopold’s. We can’t sell our whiskeys or rums at our distillery or bar.

    Go figure. You can get our Peach Whiskey in London, England, but you can’t get it here in Ann Arbor.

    Isn’t red tape a wonderful thing?!?

       —todd    Sep. 1 '07 - 01:55AM    #
  2. Todd—

    Really? That’s insane! But we can buy bottles of the other things there, right?

       —OWSider    Sep. 1 '07 - 05:31AM    #
  3. pie info @ slow food huron valley

       —bob kuehne    Sep. 1 '07 - 05:48AM    #
  4. Yep. Great law, isn’t it?

    Just think, you could be sipping on a glass of 4 year old bourbon at my place this very evening….or some dark rum made from Michigan sugar beets.

    Nope. No dice. The best part is that the good people of Michigan don’t get a single dollar in taxes from all the booze that I ship out of State/Country. Pretty neat, huh?

    But yes, you can pick up the rest of our bottled spirits right at the bar. Although I’d suggest the piefest instead. You gotta love people who are that serious about pie.

       —todd    Sep. 1 '07 - 06:42AM    #
  5. Just went to the new Firefly yesterday—really nice! No smoking at all in the room where the band plays. (which could be bad or good, I guess). There is no food, either, but they let you order from Happy’s Pizza, across the street. And we did the “Firefly-Leopolds” jaunt :)

       —TeacherPatti    Sep. 2 '07 - 01:38AM    #
  6. So Todd, you know we love your spirits, but why is everything “Rocky Mountain” something or other? I mean, Michigan has all this amazing fruit and the only thing I’ve ever seen that is at all “Michigan” is the Cherry Liquor and that isn’t even listed on your website. It seems like you really don’t have any connection to Michigan, which is disappointing. Your comment about using sugar beets is really cool, but does the label say that anywhere or does anyone know that you are using local products from Michigan? From the outside, it seems like all your stuff comes from somewhere else and is promoted elsewhere. Do you (can you?) sell your spirits other places in Ann Arbor or Michigan for those who aren’t lucky enough to live three blocks away?

    Has there been any concentrated attempt to change the liquor laws so you (and others) can sell everything in Michigan? I know it is a horrible labyrinth of red tape, but I know there were laws against brewpubs too and that was changed. The wine growers have had some success with their sales. Who is the group against the changes? Most of the liquor laws are still based on old blue laws coming out of prohibition, right?

       —Juliew    Sep. 2 '07 - 06:15AM    #
  7. TeacherPatti,

    Excellent about the nonsmoking room at the Firefly Club! That makes a big difference to us too. I think they are planning to have a pretty full menu at some point. I heard they were even thinking about doing brunches. But I’m guessing that won’t happen until they move to the bigger space downstairs and actually have a kitchen.

       —Juliew    Sep. 2 '07 - 06:21AM    #
  8. Complicated questions, Julie.

    First, we do everything that we can to connect with farmers in the regions that we sell our wares in. We believe that displacing farmers in States that we sell our spirits in is a bad practice. That’s why you see four spirits that use fruit from the Rocky Mountain area. We now have lasting relationships with a few small Colorado farmers. Imagine if Kraft adopted this policy for each State they sold their products in…..

    Setting that aside, yep, our Cherry and Blueberry comes from MI. Our rum (again which comes out in a month) uses MI sugar. I’ve also used mint from the farm that uses our spent grain. I’d love to use his entire crop of corn for the first (to my knowledge) legal bourbon produced in Michigan’s history.

    As for selling in Michigan, the wholesalers and their distribution system here makes the mob look like a bunch of pansies. 1st off, no group gives more money to MI legislators than the Michigan Wholesalers year in and year out. What do they get for these contributions?

    Here’s the deal if you are a Michigan Spirits Wholesaler:

    1. You buy a warehouse and some trucks.

    2. You don’t need to spend a single cent on inventory. Not a penny. It’s a bailment system, which means, in this case, that the State of Michigan pays both the distiller and the wholesaler 90 days AFTER a bottle is sold to an account.

    3. The distillers of the world, therefore, send you their spirits, at no charge to you.

    4. If the spirits sit for longer than a month, you charge them to “count” their inventory.

    5. You drive the spirits in a truck to accounts that request it.

    6. In exchange for this, you get a 65% of the wholesale value of each and every bottle you deliver. This formula is purposefully confusing (keeps snoopy reporters away), buy if you delivered a bottle of Leopold’s Gin that would show up on a shelf at $35, you keep ~$12.30. FYI, the typical ‘markup’ in other states is around 30%, not 65%. Essentially, all the Wholesalers work with Legislators bought them, oh, about an extra $200 Million per year split between 4 companies. Neat. Even after shipping our spirits across the ocean to London and the high UK taxes on spirits, it will still be cheaper to buy a bottle of Leopold’s in London than in Ann Arbor.

    8. It gets better. Even though, obviously, the spirits that you see on our backbar hasn’t been touched by a wholesaler, they still get their 65% markup. Neat trick, huh?

    9. If we want a MI distributor to actually go out and sell our spirits to a liquor store like Morgan and York, they’d charge us an additional 3 dollars per bottle for each new account they “get for us”.

    Yes, I’ve brought this up to legislators and other distillers. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it’d be easier for me to get elected Governor than it would be for these laws to get changed. And these laws are from 1993, not prohibition. It used to be that the State handled it all. Several thousand dollars in donations later, these firms got their deal. The DetNews did a week long series about this, but they missed the biggest gouge of all…the 65% markup that the State used to keep now goes to private firms.

    There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Owning a distributorship in Michigan is like owning an can’t lose money. It’s impossible. And you can’t lose accounts. Where are the distillers going to go? One of the other companies who could care less about your brand?

    Thanks, but no thanks. Michigan will be the last of the 50 States that you’ll find our spirits. No joke. I’m actually working out a deal with a Swedish distributor (govt. monopoly), and I’m quite certain that you’ll get our stuff in Stockholm before you can get it at Morgan and York.

    So there’s the long answer. We don’t use more MI products because it’s not feasible for us to sell it here. Stupid, but true. Our sales and, sadly, our sales and marketing efforts will continue to focus on every State but Michigan.

    Here’s a couple of links outlining their, um, practices.

       —todd    Sep. 2 '07 - 09:09AM    #
  9. Todd — I was looking around on your Web site and couldn’t find a list of places outside MI that carry your liquor. Does such a list exist for, say, the Chicago area?

       —Dale    Sep. 2 '07 - 06:40PM    #
  10. Todd — I was looking around on your Web site and couldn’t find a list of places outside MI that carry your liquor. Does such a list exist for, say, the Chicago area? I’m looking for a way to get my Michigan drink on until Bell’s comes back here.

       —Dale    Sep. 2 '07 - 06:42PM    #
  11. Thanks Todd. It is all so frustrating. With such a tradition of brewing and distilling in this state, you would think that the state governments would do everything to encourage it. But I guess graft and buyouts are a long-standing tradition too. It just hurts the State and the people who live here. It we want to get out of being so reliant on the auto companies, we need to encourage other industries, and this is a potentially lucrative one. So is anyone working against this? Is there a petition to sign. Is there a place to donate money? I know when the wine growers wanted to ship their wine and it looked like that was going to be shut down, I got lots of petitions and requests. After all, the only thing legislators fear more than losing money is losing voters.

       —Juliew    Sep. 2 '07 - 07:05PM    #
  12. The Ann Arbor News does a daily events listing – for today they mention the Old St Pat’s Labor Day festival, the Saline Community Fair demo derby at the Farm Council grounds, the Sailing Club has a potluck and the A2 Democratic Party is at Island Park.

    I put these Ann Arbor Labor Day events on a Google Map (to try it out) and stuck it on my blog.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Sep. 3 '07 - 05:17PM    #