BETHESDA, Md. - There is a surprise in the fight to end Montgomery County's monopoly over liquor sales. After 21 years on the job, the head of the county’s Department of Liquor Control is out.
Now, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has changed course and said he is open to talking about ending the practice, but there is a catch.
If you own a bar or a store in Montgomery County, there is only one place you can place orders for liquor and that is from the county itself.
Since the end of prohibition, the county has had a monopoly that gives them exclusive control of the wholesale market. The county also runs 25 retail stores that compete with private business.
As many people in Montgomery County were still digging out from the blizzard, the county government put out a memo to employees that George Griffin was moving on from his position as of 5 p.m. last Friday.
Leggett followed that up with a message to the county council saying if they could find a way to replace the $33 million that liquor control generates in the county, he would finally be ready to discuss doing away with the practice.
This comes in the middle of a major effort to end the Department of Liquor Control's stranglehold over liquor sales. End the Monopoly, a group made up of both frustrated restaurant owners and consumers have come up with a petition with thousands of signatures on it.
"For years, we have struggled with delivery, we spend a lot more money to buy booze from Montgomery County than we do in restaurants in Virginia and D.C.,” said Frank Shull, owner of the RW Restaurant Group. “We spend about 20 to 25 percent more and we don't get good service.”
"I think we have reached a tipping point,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner. “I think we have a chance now again with the County Executive on board being a constructive player. We can make this happen for our people.”
There was no reason given for Griffin’s departure. A county spokesperson said they will launch a nationwide search for a new head of the Department of Liquor Control.