Maryland: Losing Liquor Control Could Mean Tax Increase, Warns Montgomery Co. Council
By: Matt Bush
November 16, 2015
Unlike any other county in the region, Montgomery County is one of very few liquor control counties across the United States. That means all liquor stores are owned and operated by the county, and bars and restaurants must buy all their alcohol from the government. The pressure for the county to nix its control is mounting, but officials are warning against making a change.
Eight of the nine county council members say ending liquor control will mean a huge loss in revenue. And they warn that could necessitate a tax increase to make up for it.
In a letter to the county’s delegation in the General Assembly, the council members urged state lawmakers not to support bills that would end liquor control.
Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) is one of the authors of a bill that would put liquor control to a voter referendum that will be introduced next year. He says he’s just doing what his constituents want.
“On a regular basis, people tell me the buy alcohol in Northwest D.C. or they buy it Virginia because they can get better deals and there are better stores. All of this is driven by the unique Montgomery County system,” Frick says.
Frick adds that restaurants and bars on the whole don’t like liquor control either because it limits the kinds of alcohol they can buy too.
Earlier this year in response to that frustration, the county council approved one of the first changes to liquor control in decades. It allows bars and restaurants to “special order” beer and wine from private stores. Supporters say that will help establishments build up extensive and exotic beer and wine lists for customers.
The eight council members believe that is enough for now, and that all changes to liquor control should come gradually – not all at once. The lone council member who’s not on the letter to the county delegation is Roger Berliner. His represents Bethesda, the largest restaurant district in Montgomery County.