Written by attorney Michael A. Brower

Michigan Liquor Licenses: The Church & School Rule (MCL 436.1503)

The General Rule

"A new application for a license to sell alcoholic beverages at retail, or a request to transfer location of an existing license, shall be denied if the contemplated location is within 500 feet of a church or a school building."

When Doesn't the Rule Apply

There are two primary situations in which this rule does not apply:

First, the Church and School Rule does not apply to SDM licenses that are not held in conjunction with an on-premise license. Therefore, if an applicant seeks only an SDM license, the Church and School Rule will not apply.

Second, this rule also does not apply to location transfers if the license was already within 500 feet of a church or a school building, and will be transferred farther away from that church or school building. For example, you can transfer a Class C that is 50 ft from a church to a new location that is 100 ft from the church.

For licenses issued before March 1, 1949, see MCL 436.1503(3).

How is the distance measured? (MCL 436.1503(1))

We typically use an online measuring tool (e.g. as a starting point when estimating distances.

The steps are:

  1. Determine the shortest route between the existing church/school and the proposed location.
  2. Create a beginning and ending point by projecting straight lines, at right angles to the center line, from the part of the church or school building nearest to the contemplated location and from the part of the contemplated location nearest to the church or school building.
  3. Measure the distance between the two points located in the center of the road. If any turns are taken, measure to the center of the intersection, and then turn, continuing down the center line of the road you have turned onto.

*Note: MLCC Staff will measure using their own tools regardless of your findings. Measuring ahead of time is simply a good method to prepare yourself.

For Locations within 500 ft of a Church or School

All is not lost when a location is within 500ft of a church or school. The Commission, in its discretion, may waive the Church and School Rule under several circumstances.

Upon determination that a church or school is within 500ft of the proposed licensed location, the Commission will contact the church/school. The church or school then has 15 days to formally object to issuance or transfer of the license. If the church or school fails to file a formal objection, the Commission may issue/transfer the license. When possible, we recommend that attorneys make contact with the leadership at the church or school prior to their receipt of communication from the commission. This allows the attorney to explain why the licensed location will not harm adversely affect their operation and it may help avoid a church or school hearing altogether.

In the event that the church/school does object, the Commission will schedule a Church or School Hearing (see Rules 436.1951 - .1963). The Commission must grant a waiver after this hearing if the applicant can demonstrate by competent, material, and substantial evidence that a waiver of the Church and School Rule would not adversely affect the operation of the church or school.

**Note: This legal guide was up-to-date as of July 31st, 2012.

Additional resources provided by the author

You can visit the Michigan Liquor Law Network @ for further resources relating to Michigan liquor law. You can also visit for up-to-date information on Michigan liquor law, best practices, and more.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer