Bill Paves Way For North OC Wine, Beer Festival

OCEAN CITY — If businesses in north Ocean City want to pool resources to hold a wine or beer festival, the law will most likely soon be on their side.

It was said at last month’s North Ocean City Business Alliance meeting at the Greene Turtle North that holding an event or two in the northern part of the town would help bring people to the area as well as help surrounding businesses. Suggested events included a wine festival or maybe a craft beer event or a combination of both, although no details or firm plans had been made.

A step in that direction appears to be afoot, as Sen. Jim Mathias has submitted legislation in Annapolis allowing Worcester County to hold three festivals per year selling alcohol to go. Currently, only one is allowed, and that’s the annual Wine Fest at the Beach held in September in Ocean City.

Senate Bill 1075 authorizes the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners to issue not more than three special alcohol festival licenses each year.

The specifics of the bill outline what goods can be sold at the individual festivals. Under the permit, the licensee can sell wine that’s manufactured and processed in any state and beer that is brewed by a brewer “who brews less than 60,000 barrels of beer annually and whose product is distributed in the state at the time the application is filed.”

The bill calls for the Board of License Commissioners to set the license fee and allow the festivals to be held any weekend so long as it does not conflict with the Maryland Wine Festival, which will be held at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster Sept. 15-16.

Additionally, the board is to “assure that the primary focus of the Festival is the promotion of Maryland beer and wine.”

Mathias said he filed the bill after being called by BJ’s on the Water owner Billy Carder, who is involved with the North Ocean City Business Alliance.

“I had the bill drafted for three, figuring maybe Berlin, as progressive as its been, or maybe Snow Hill would want to have one as well as the ongoing effort in north Ocean City. I think it makes good sense for economic development,” Mathias said. “I do not expect it to have any problems passing … it’s a local liquor bill, it will be fine.”

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