Save license for economic development

March 1, 2017

Action in January by Rochester Hills City Council members to deny a request from a national gym and fitness center chain to serve alcohol on its premises was a prudent decision that we believe is in the city's best interest.

Representatives from LifeTime Fitness, 200 W. Avon, told city council members they would like to offer beer and alcohol sales to their members. The business, they said, was already serving alcohol at more than two dozen other clubs it operates around the country, and was hoping to add a "social club" atmosphere at its Rochester Hills location. If approved, it would have been the first LifeTime Fitness in Michigan to offer beer and alcohol sales, and coincide with a trend that company had pushing in other states.

Several council members took issue with the request, questioning the value of alcohol sales at a fitness club, whether the new service would provide a benefit to the community, and most importantly, whether the request would be the best use of the city's last remaining liquor license.

Under the Michigan's liquor control system, the number of liquor licenses that may be issued in a particular community is restricted by the population of that community. The quota system, as it is called, therefore results in a high value being placed on available liquor licenses. And, while those liquor licenses are ultimately issued by the state, the real decision to issue a license or not relies on the support from the local communities where the license will be located.

Because of the limited availability of liquor licenses, governing boards, like the Rochester Hills City Council, should be particularly choosy when deciding whether or not to grant a license. In doing so, we believe governing boards should select a business which would provide a boost to the local economy.

In our view, we don't believe offering beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages to patrons of a business centered on health and fitness fits that criteria.

Representatives from LifeTime Fitness said they were trying to open the business up to more people who might not want to be members because they feel there is no social aspect of working out. This publication doesn't subscribe to that train of thought, nor did the majority of council members who denied LifeTime's request. We need only to turn to the number of gyms and fitness centers proliferating in the city that stress group involvement and the social aspects of fitness and training.

There's no doubt that LifeTime Fitness has found a great deal of success in the health and fitness industry. But we feel, at least locally, that residents and the overall community of Rochester Hills can be served by a quality fitness center without the introduction of alcohol sales.

We encourage Rochester Hills City Council members and those in neighboring communities to continue using their best judgement when it comes to the issuance of liquor license, and consider what is in the best interest of the community in doing so.

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