Maryland General Assembly Approves Bill To Allow Privately-Owned Stores To Sell Liquor in Montgomery County

Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Magazine:

"Later this year the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) may not be the exclusive retailer of liquor in the county.

The General Assembly unanimously approved a bill during the 2017 session that ended Monday that will allow the DLC to contract with privately-owned beer and wine stores to sell liquor. Currently, the DLC is the only retailer of liquor, which it sells at its 26 county-run liquor stores. Private stores can only sell beer and wine.

But the newly-passed agency bill allows the DLC to license an alcohol store owner to sell spirits such as vodka, whiskey or rum. The department will be responsible for determining which beer and wine stores will be provided licenses, but there are some stipulations such as the outlets licensed to sell spirits cannot sell snack food or soft drinks..."

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The bill now heads to the governor, who is expected to sign it. As reports, however, there are still questions and concerns about how this reform will be enacted:

"[N]ot all of the beer and wine store owners are happy about this and many have questions about how it will work. Several even said they are opposed to it.

The Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control would have sole discretion when it comes to which shops are granted licenses. But there is no information as to how much the licenses would cost. Many are also afraid the county would control their liquor pricing.

Justin McInerny, manager of Capital Beer and Wine, said the way they have gone about this is puzzling.

'A government agency is entitled to give a government contract with absolutely no vetting at all, with no rhyme or reason,' he said. 'It's very curious … The potential for abuse is there. I don't see why a government contract should be completely closed to the public and should be up to the one government agency to write all of the rules.'..."

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