When the Beer Depot had a drive-thru window

BY BETH WITTENSTEIN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 16, 2008

The keg is tapped. The 30-packs emptied. And to keep the party going, a late night beer run is needed.

Not too long ago, University students and Ann Arbor citizens could restock their refreshments for the rest of the night without even leaving the air-conditioned comfort of their cars.

Up until 2003, the Beer Depot in downtown Ann Arbor offered its customers who were too lazy or too hurried to get out of their cars a drive-thru service to purchase alcohol.

Paul Karlinski, a University alum, remembers riding in a friend’s car on one beer at the drive-thru.

“I thought it was amazing that you could drive through to get it,” he said.

Ben Grabill, the Beer Depot’s manager, said he started working at the store six-and-a-half years ago when the ownership changed and just before the drive-thru was removed.

Grabill said customers, often in their fifties, come into the store on a daily basis asking about the fate of the drive-thru.

The fate of the Depot’s drive-thru was sealed when the store changed locations in 2003 from South State Street to its current location on East William Street with the transfer of ownership, according to Ken Wozniak, the director of executive service for the Liquor Control Commission in Michigan.

Wozniak said it is illegal to transfer a liquor license that allows the sale of alcoholic beverages through a window to a new location. He added that police were having a hard time monitoring alcohol sales with this type of business, so they stopped issuing licenses to businesses with drive-thru or walk-up windows.

When the new owners requested their license be transferred to the store’s new location, they were denied in part because they wished to continue the drive-thru service, he said.

The new owners appealed the order denying their request in October of that year and received their license in December, provided that the drive-thru window be closed and permanently sealed, Wozniak said.

Though the days of the drive-thru have passed, the Depot’s drive-thru sign remains mostly untouched, a wistful reminder of easier beer-buying days past.