Approved Md. bill to allow privately-owned stores to sell liquor in Montgomery County

- It could soon be more convenient to buy alcohol in Montgomery County thanks to a bill approved by the Maryland General Assembly. The governor is expected to sign the bill that would allow privately-owned stores to sell liquor in the county.

Right now, there are only 26 stores that sell liquor in Montgomery County and a 27th store will open later this week. They are all run by the county government and the idea behind this new bill is to cater to high demand that may have some consumers traveling far to purchase their alcohol.

However, not 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.”

Once the bill is signed by Governor Larry Hogan, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's office will also review it.

Bob Dorfman, the director of the Department of Liquor Control for Montgomery County, said he is promising there will be transparency.

“We would have to establish very objective criteria as to why one retailer over another would be granted that license and that is the process that we will go through to make sure there is a fair, equitable and intelligent decision made as to how and who should get those additional licenses based on what the geographic needs of that particular area,” Dorfman said.

In this bill, any business that serves food or soda on its premises would be prohibited from selling liquor.

Once the governor signs the bill, it will go into effect on July 1.

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