Maryland: County Council Opposes Bill To Create Liquor Authority (Excerpt)

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

Maryland: County Council Opposes Bill To Create Liquor Authority (Excerpt)


Rice says he would rather ‘fix’ Department of Liquor Control

Source: Bethesda Magazine

By Douglas Tallman and Andrew Metcalf


The Montgomery County Council agreed Tuesday not to support possible state legislation that would create a liquor control authority that would provide some separation between the county’s control of liquor sales and the county government.

Earlier this month, County Executive Ike Leggett proposed putting the county’s Department of Liquor Control’s wholesale and retail operations under the control of the independent authority. The authority would maintain the county’s monopoly over the wholesale distribution of most alcohol and the retail sale of all liquor in the county, according to his proposal.

The council made the consensus decision at a meeting in which members heard about proposed legislation to be submitted when the General Assembly session begins in January in Annapolis.

State Del. Charles Barkley of Germantown said other members of the county’s delegation to the Statehouse would be “leery” of a bill that Leggett supports, but the council opposes. Barkley also chairs the General Assembly’s alcohol subcommittee.

Council member Craig Rice said he thought the county didn’t need to undertake such a restructuring to solve the DLC’s problems.

“Why can’t we say we can fix our DLC and make it work for people?” Rice asked.

Council members Hans Riemer and George Leventhal said they believed the council had a better proposal last year when it suggested private distributors take over the distribution of smaller-label alcohol products, which are important for the county’s high-end restaurants. Leggett did not support the proposal.

Of Leggett’s proposal, Leventhal said: “I don’t think it addresses any of the problems restaurants and retailers have with special orders.” Leggett should have given the council’s proposal a chance, he said.

Some have called for privatization of the DLC, but Riemer said privatization proposals fail to consider the $104 million in bonds that are supported by the $30 million or so in profits generated annually by the DLC.

Leggett released his liquor authority proposal after spending nearly $60,000 on a consultants’ report that analyzed proposals put forth by a task force he appointed.

After Leggett made the proposal, many of the DLC’s critics said the authority would basically be the same as the DLC but with a different name and less county oversight.

The DLC has been under fire for more than two years with restaurants and beer and wine shop owners describing problems related to limited selection, inaccurate order deliveries and poor customer service.

Since then, the department has made a number of changes including hiring new management, updating warehouse operations and streamlining wine pricing.

In a survey conducted by the county in October to which 17 percent of the county’s beer and wine store and restaurant owners responded, many said certain aspects of the DLC’s operations had improved, although in most cases a majority of respondents said the department’s operations had stayed the same or declined: