County-Owned Liquor Stores in Maryland Were Given Extra Discounts


Maryland's alcohol regulation system devolves significant power to individual counties, which creates a patchwork of booze regulations across the Old Line State. In Montgomery County, for example, the county government controls all spirit sales. According to Bethesda Magazine, state liquor regulators recently uncovered evidence that Montgomery County was obtaining discounts from producers beyond what other private wholesalers in the state were being offered, which is a violation of state law:

Less than four months after putting in place a new pricing model, Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is redoing its prices again in response to a warning from the state comptroller’s office.

Jeffrey Kelly, the chief of the comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division, which regulates the alcohol industry in the state, sent the DLC a bulletin Sept. 12. The bulletin notified the county agency that it might be getting discounts from alcohol producers and suppliers that other distributors in the state aren’t receiving—a violation of state law.

The DLC controls the wholesale distribution of all alcohol and retail sale of liquor in the county—a unique arrangement in the state. Other jurisdictions’ alcohol sales are served by traditional privately run distributors, rather than a county agency. The DLC generates about $30 million in profit for the county that is used to pay off infrastructure bonds and supplement the general fund...

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