Next month, Michigan will join 31 other states requiring beer kegs to be sold with tags that can identify who bought them.
Buyers will have to sign a receipt containing their name, address, telephone number and driver license or state I.D. card number. Retailers will have to attach a tag on each keg and record the tag number on the receipt.
The law is intended to make it easier to track who purchased kegs if police have to break up a party or find underage drinking is involved. The $30 keg deposit won't be returned unless the tag remains on the keg. Removing a tag is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
Former Democratic lawmaker Dianne Byrum tried unsuccessfully to get a tag law passed in the mid-1990s. Efforts in the intervening years also failed to get traction, but lawmakers finally passed a bill last December with Republican and Democratic support. The new law takes effect Nov. 1.
Tom's Party Store owner Rich McCarius knew the law had passed but said Thursday he hadn't been notified by the state that he had to soon start putting tags on kegs.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission put out a news release Thursday alerting keg beer sellers that they could order the tags online on the commission's website. The tags are free and will be available in books of 50, according to the tag order form.
Commission spokeswoman Andrea Miller said the state doesn't know how many retailers will be affected because it doesn't track how many sell beer by the keg.
McCarius said he sells hundreds of kegs of beer a month during football season at his store just outside East Lansing, home to Michigan State University. He expects many of his keg buyers -- most under 30 years old -- will purchase cases of beer to avoid filling out a tag receipt for a keg, even if it costs a little more.
"You could buy 10 30-packs, and what would the difference be? And they will, by the way," McCarius said. "It's just another hurdle that the government's going to put in the way of small business."
Byrum said the tags supply accountability, "so if these keggers got out of control, there was some kind of a paper trail so you could find out who was responsible."
"It at least gives law enforcement a necessary tool," she said. "I still think there's a lot of underage drinking. But the thing with a kegger was it really could get out of control very quickly and it was very cheap."
East Lansing used to have a local law requiring the beer keg tags, but dropped it after customers just moved to stores outside the city limits. McCarius said he picked up a lot of business while East Lansing's law was in effect.
That's why a statewide law was needed, Byrum said.
In the Midwest, Indiana and Minnesota have keg tag laws while Ohio and Wisconsin do not, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association Survey Book. Illinois leaves it up local liquor commissions to decide if tags are required.
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, based in Alexandria, Va., said 32 states now have keg tagging laws intended to hold adults accountable for providing alcohol to minors.
Kathy Barks Hoffman can be reached at http://twitter.com/kathybhoffman.