Six years after Zeeland alcohol sales, no large DUI increase

9:41 PM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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(AP image)

ZEELAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- Six years ago, Zeeland lost the title of dry city, despite strong opposition. WZZM 13 is now taking a closer look at the ongoing debate with new drunk driving numbers from before and after alcohol sales became legal.

Ryan Snyder can pour a smooth glass of beer, but it was a bumpy road to get to that point.  After a heated election, his restaurant, Vitales, became the first to sell drinks in Zeeland in 2007. "I got a couple pieces of hate mail," says Snyder.

During that time, opponents called alcohol the enemy. "They were really allowing the enemy a foothold in town," one lady said.

There were and still are a number of concerns, including drunk driving. "They have a nice little community here and they wanted to make sure it didn't deteriorate," says Snyder.

WZZM 13 did some digging at the Zeeland Police Department.
According to their numbers, there were 513 drunk driving arrests in the six years, before alcohol sales were allowed.
From 2007 to 2012, there have been 584 arrests, an increase of 71 over those six years.

One year, 2011 showed fewer arrests, but that was because the most aggressive DUI enforcement officer was deployed to Afghanistan.

WZZM 13 asked Zeeland Mayor Kevin Klynstra if the drunk driving numbers are significant. "I think it was kind of an unfounded fear," says Mayor Klynstra.  "They (drunk driving numbers) go up and down every year, but since we've had alcohol it's not much different."

Zeeland's Police Chief also points out that the far majority of driving arrests came from outsiders traveling through the city.  He says very few of them were drinking and driving within city limits

WZZM 13 also showed the drunk driving numbers to an opponent of the alcohol sales. "One is more than enough and I still have more concerns over what it does to families and relationships," says Tim Sweet.

"There's always going to be opponents and I don't think numbers like this are going to change their minds," says Mayor Klynstra.

After Vitales, AJ's Grocery Store also began selling alcohol. Then last year, Public became the first downtown restaurant and bar.

Snyder says his restaurant continues to be careful with every glass they pour.

Zeeland could soon have more places to buy alcohol.  The city's expecting its first brewery next spring.  

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