Montgomery County's liquor law under debate

- The decades-old liquor laws in Montgomery County might be in for a big overhaul. Some residents and some on the county council are pushing to break up the monopoly that some say is reminiscent of the Prohibition era.

For more than 80 years since the end of prohibition, Montgomery County has had a monopoly over all alcohol sales in the county. Now, the possibility of a referendum in 2016 has both sides riled up.

A public hearing held on Monday was scheduled to discuss this proposal. On one side at the meeting, there were people wearing yellow shirts who are unionized county employees who work at the liquor warehouse where all alcohol and liquor bought in county has to come from. These nearly 400 employees say they bring in $35 million a year in profit for the county.

On the other side of this debate are those who own and run alcohol and liquor stores as well as many restaurant owners who say they have to make all their purchases through the county. They say their product choice is limited and their orders are often filled late by the county with marked-up price. In turn, they say they have to bump up their prices, which is driving customers away to other counties and locations.

However, those in the union say if there is an option for buyers to purchasing from other distributors, they will lose their jobs.

“The compromise is what the county council has already approved, which is let them order the special order items directly from distributors,” said Richard Bond. “They can get there a little bit faster through them and we'll maintain the stock items … The main things to keep our revenue and to keep our jobs.”

This debate will be among the topics considered for referendum during Maryland’s 2016's General Assembly.

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