Major changes to the local liquor industry will take place the first of July when the county’s monopoly over wholesale liquor purchases ends. This has been a long time coming and it’s a good thing overall.
With the market opening up July 1, license holders have until the end of the month to submit their intentions in writing to test the open market to the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC). Most of these letters are mere formalities with the DLC then required to respond with a letter to the operators confirming receipt that must be posted on premises, according to the law.
A surprise in what was expected to be a banal process was revealed this week when the Purple Moose Saloon, a long-time critic of the monopolistic dispensary system, was informed its business would no longer be accepted by the DLC. The letter read, in part, “Effective July 1, 2014, the Worcester County DLC will no longer be servicing your account through our Wholesale Department or at any of our satellite locations.”
The Purple Moose apparently has been singled out because of its past opposition and it’s unclear at this point whether it has any legal standing against the county to fight this decision. That’s not what is most interesting to me. What’s compelling to me is what a questionable business decision this was by the county. This move means that in its spreadsheet for the next fiscal year rather than seeing a portion of its sales to the Purple Moose reduced, there will be a goose egg. That’s going to hurt the county’s bottom line for sure. Whether it’s discrimination by a government entity is for the lawyers to hash out, but my guess is it will not get to that point.
Along those lines, it was interesting to see how much of a revenue decrease the county’s DLC was forecasting as a result of its monopoly ending. Director Bob Cowger told the commissioners this week during a budget review session there was good news and bad news. The bad news was he expects to lose about 25% of the DLC’s wholesale business, but the good news was he predicts the retail side of the operation, which now offers wine along with its spirits, will pick up some of the loss.
It’s an important time in the local liquor industry and the next several months of transition should prove interesting for all involved.
As difficult as it might be to believe, word is Berlin is being looked at as a possible site for a franchise hotel off Route 113. The site mentioned this week at the Berlin Planning Commission meeting was the corner of Germantown Road and Route 113 across from Boomers Restaurant.
There seemed to be a reluctance to openly talk about it at this week’s meeting because it’s a fluid situation, but it was clearly stated that one of the national hotel chains is closing in on a deal.
If this happens, it’s a safe bet a certain amount of development in the area will accompany it. That intersection has been the site of a lot of interest, as real estate agents in the know have reported Royal Farms recently conducted a feasibility study of some kind of the defunct Boomers Restaurant site that has been for sale for years. Sources say the study, which gauged traffic primarily, did not endorse the store.
During Tuesday’s first bill signing session in Annapolis, there was a lot of patting on the backs by Gov. Martin O’Malley, State Senate President Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch.
After the trio loved on each other for a while, they got down to business of signing laws into effect. The second law signed was the Kathleen A. Mathias Oral Chemotherapy Improvement Act of 2014, which essentially levels the proverbial playing field for insurance coverage for both the oral and intravenous forms of chemotherapy. The bill is named after long-time city employee and cancer advocate Kathy Mathias, the wife of Senator Jim Mathias who passed away in 2011.
During this week’s bill signing, a reporter was able to capture an exchange between O’Malley and Jim Mathias. Prior to signing the bill, the governor turned to Mathias and said, “Jim, is this the only priority of mine you supported this session?”
The ensuing laughter was captured in a front page photo on The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday.