Liquor Law Changes Get County Support

SNOW HILL — A series of changes to Article 2B, which governs the sale of alcohol in Maryland, could quadruple the maximum fine for serving alcohol after hours, require a supervisor with alcohol training on site at all times and permit the off-sale of beer, wine and liquor from seven-day license holders. However, putting the alterations on the books requires approval from the state legislature.

The changes are “minor amendments,” according to a letter from Board of License Commissioners Attorney Tom Coates, and in general will just be bringing Worcester County up to speed with most policies across the state. However, they will collectively represent a noticeable change on how the county manages alcohol sales and punishes violators.

The first proposed change will expand the current language in parts of Article 2B Section 6 from “Seven day license holders may sell beer, wine and liquor (on-sale) and beer and light wine (off-sale)” to allowing the sale of “beer, wine and liquor (on-sale or off-sale).” The addition of liquor onto that list is a significant alteration, but Bloxom told the County Commissioners that this is more of a housekeeping correction.

“There was an issue with inconsistencies between some of the sections and that will clear that up,” he said.

A memo from Coates further clarified, saying, “This section should have been amended when off-sale liquor was permitted on Sundays many years ago. Section 11-524 already states that liquor can be sold off-sale on Sundays. This correction will remove any potential conflict between the two sections.”

The second amendment would set Worcester at the same requirement as many other counties such as Wicomico in requiring a “licensee to maintain a person in a supervisory capacity who is certified by an approved alcohol awareness program on the premises at all times alcohol is sold.” Only Class C alcohol license holders would be exempt.

Requiring a supervisor on site that is adequately trained in alcohol management could lead to a reduction in common alcohol violations, such as sale to minors, since many of those occur with new or untrained clerks, servers, or bartenders, especially foreign workers unfamiliar with Maryland’s vertical licenses for residents under 21.

The final amendment would also bring Worcester in line with state averages by increasing the current maximum fine of $1,000 for the sale of alcohol after hours to $4,000. According to Bloxom, this is more in keeping with what most counties in Maryland enforce.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to support the changes that will now be discussed by the General Assembly.