The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has suspended Touchdown Cafe’s liquor license for violating a rule against sponsoring drinking games at bars. The bar held regular beer pong contests.
The suspension starts today and will run for five days. Touchdown Cafe will have to pay a $1,600 fine as well.
State administrative code prohibits bars from holding “any contest that requires the use or consumption of alcoholic liquor or features alcoholic liquor as a prize in connection with a contest.”
Beer pong usually involves two teams standing across a table from one another taking turns throwing ping-pong balls into cups partially filled with beer on their opponents’ side. Every time a team makes a shot, the other team has to drink the beer and remove the cup. The losing team is the one whose cups are eliminated first.
But Scott Meinke, a manager at Touchdown Café, said the bar’s version of beer pong doesn’t necessarily involve beer. He said some people play with water or don’t drink anything at all.
“At the beginning of the tournament we explain the rules, and that’s one of the rules,” he said. “We explain that this is not a binge drinking game. It’s purely a game for fun; there doesn’t have to be alcohol involved.”
Jason Derisley, a co-owner of the bar, said he thought his bar was following the rules.
“This is kind of a surprise,” he said. “We did believe that we were in compliance with all the rules. We really thought that we were.”
According to the Ken Wozniak, the director of the commission’s executive services division, investigators saw drinking games being played at the bar and filed the information with the state attorney general’s office.
The complaint then went through a series of administrative hearings and appeals before a circuit court judge refused to stay the license suspension on Wednesday.
Derisley said many area bars host beer pong tournaments.
“Every single bar has this and does this that I know of,” he said.
A pair of University of Michigan alumni won the World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas in January of 2006.
The bar was scheduled to hold a satellite tournament for the World Series of Beer Pong on Dec. 1. Winners of that tournament would win an entry in the national competition.
The popularity of beer pong has grown in recent years. A few companies have even begun selling beer pong accessories like racks to keep the cups in place.
Still Wozniak said he hasn’t noticed an increase in the number of bars being cited for sponsoring drinking games.
Velissaris compared the game to other traditional bar games like darts or pool.
“It is done in a bar and people can drink if they want,” he said. “Just like you can go to a pool hall and drink if you want. If you do not want to drink and play pool or darts, you can still play the game.”
Students at Touchdown Café last night said they disagreed with the decision.
“I think it’s a ridiculous law because people are going to drink whether there are games involved or not,” said LSA freshman Laura Campion. “They’re at a bar.”
– Karey Quarton and Gabe Nelson contributed to this report.