Tin Can Denied Entertainment License

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Friday, April 15, 2016, 7:56 am
Alice Dreger


Above: The image taken by and mentioned at Council by Councilmember Erik Altmann.

When the application to open the Tin Can bar on Grand River Avenue came before the last East Lansing City Council in October, it led to a contentious 3-2 vote, with then-Mayor Nathan Triplett, then-Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, and City Councilmember Susan Woods voting in favor, and Councilmembers Ruth Beier and Kathy Boyle voting against.

On Tuesday night, the new Council voted 5-0 against the Tin Can owner’s request for an entertainment license.

The matter had been slated on the “consent agenda” at the start of Tuesday night’s meeting, meaning it might have been approved without any discussion. But Beier, who is now Mayor Pro Tem of East Lansing, pulled it off the consent agenda to push open discussion of the matter. She began that discussion with significant criticism of the establishment.

Beier noted that when she and Boyle voted against the business last October, they had been willing to vote for it if the owner had been willing to open for lunch, to provide more lunch options downtown. But, she said, the establishment opens at 3 p.m., or sometimes later. She also criticized the front window which advertises “good beer/cheap friends,” as well as “Faygo bombs” and “pudding shots.”

Councilmember Erik Altmann also criticized the window display, indicating he had taken photographs that day to share with Council. Altmann said he was “not inclined to compound the error of approving this downtown” by granting Tin Can an entertainment license.

Beier “urged” her fellow Councilmembers to vote “no.” She said the application to have “water pong,” darts, and other games should be denied, suggesting the “water pong” term on the entertainment license application was a disingenuous way to ask for permission for beer pong tables, and saying “we don’t need another establishment like that downtown.” She said that all this bar does that is “special” is to serve beer in cans.

Woods responded that as far as the basic establishment goes, “that horse has left the barn.” To this, Beier responded that it had left without the entertainment license, so that could now be denied. Beier said she was willing to consider the applicant’s request if he would consider opening early enough to serve lunch.

This issue led to a discussion of whether Tin Can is meeting the “50/50 rule.” This is a requirement in East Lansing that alcohol-serving establishments earn at least 50% of their income from food. City zoning administrator Darcy Schmitt said that she was not aware of a quarterly filing on the 50/50 rule having yet come in from Tin Can.

Councilmember Shanna Draheim weighed in to say that “what’s in the window may not be to our liking” but that it is “serving a market which is the student market which is a huge part of our population.” She said her “no” vote on the entertainment license was not a comment on last October’s Council vote to approve Tin Can, but rather reflected her belief that the entertainment license “is a reasonable thing to constrain” because “we don’t want to highly encourage that.”

Woods, who had voted for the establishment opening in October, said she was voting against the entertainment license because “we have to draw a line in the sand.”

Later in the discussion, Schmitt explained that the layout plan for these games had been part of the application the earlier Council approved 3-2 in October, so the “news” of the bar wanting to host these games wasn’t really news. She explained that the applicant did not realize he needed an entertainment license for such games, and that he only realized it when he went to file an application to have a D.J. and live music and realized the games also required a special license.

But by that point in the discussion, Council had already voted 5-0 against granting the entertainment license. Presumably this means that if Tin Can has been hosting such games, it can no longer do so.


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