Montgomery Co. Booze Bill Gives Residents More Access

WASHINGTON — A bill that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign into law will give residents in Montgomery County more access to hard alcohol, such as vodka and whiskey, by giving private business owners more authority.

Under the legislation, privately owned businesses would have the opportunity to sell liquor by obtaining a license from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control.

Currently, only beer and wine can be sold by private retailers while all the liquor sales go through businesses that are run by the DLC.

There are fewer than 30 DLC stores in the county.

“The goal is really to address the need for additional liquor outlets,” Del. Charlie Barkley told the House Economic Matters Committee during a hearing earlier this year.

“Our major problem is lack of access,” he said. ” The county has only 0.34 spirit outlets per 10,000 adults compared to 3.02 outlets in the rest of the state.”

The bill was passed with broad support by lawmakers in the General Assembly during their legislative session that came to an end this week.

It would take effect in July.

Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said the legislation is a welcome development because the county is “understored rather dramatically” when it comes to residents having access to hard alcohol.

“There are already over 150 exclusive beer and wine private outlets in Montgomery County. We would suggest that they would have an opportunity to sell spirits,” Hibbard said.

More outlets selling liquor could mean more cash for the county.

According to Hibbard, since the county-controlled DLC would be in charge of distributing liquor to private stores, the county could potentially see $4.1 million in new revenue if only 100 of the current beer and wine retailers began selling liquor.

The legislation requires the DLC to establish criteria for contracting with the private stores. Businesses that sell snack food or soft drinks would not be eligible.

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