The St. Mary’s liquor control board thought favorably of, but did not vote to endorse, state legislative proposals that would make pandemic carry-out rules permanent, and would waive liquor licensing fees in the county.
St. Mary’s County Alcohol Beverage Board members stopped short of voting on the two proposals at their business meeting on Jan. 14, choosing to wait until the bills have gone further through the legislative process.
Members showed interest in a proposal which would allow restaurants and bars to continue offering carry-out or delivery cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, noting they would be interested in supporting the bill in order to bolster bars and restaurants in the post-pandemic world, if it had a sunset provision ending the rules within a few years.
Maryellen Kraese, standing in for the county’s Community Alcohol Coalition and speaking against the legislation, told board members alcohol use had significantly increased throughout the pandemic, and claimed the shift from on-premise to off-premise alcohol consumption last spring, at the start of the pandemic, was “likely” associated with the increase of violence within households at that time.
Arguing in favor of the bill under the circumstance it was phased out after a certain amount of time, St. Mary’s Licensed Beverage Association chair David Dent said the bill requires prepared food to be ordered with the to-go cocktails.
“This isn’t like … in the old days where you used to drive over to Duke’s Bar and get a rum and coke and drive off with it,” he said. The containers would also have to be sealed, according to board attorney Chris Beaver.
“From my perspective, I’d say, I do support it,” new board member Richard Watts said at the meeting, noting the pandemic had caused people to resort to vices which alcohol delivery would not necessarily encourage.
“One could also make the argument that this might even be safer, because now you’ve got a sober person whose delivering it, instead of somebody who’s deciding to go out on the road to the alcohol store to go and get it,” Watts said.
Board chair David Willenborg showed reservations for the bill, noting potential situations where delivery could go wrong.
“They’ve been drinking their bottle of scotch and they’re loaded and they finished it off and now they order something else, and when the person says, ‘No, I’m not going to give you this,’ and there’s the threat to the delivery person of being assaulted,” he said.
The board also discussed a proposal by Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s) to waive county liquor license fees for 2021, which the county commissioners endorsed last week.
Dent, who operates WJ Dent and Sons in Tall Timbers, said the fee waiver, although a small amount, could allow employers to “fund payroll and pay employees for one or two weeks.”
Liquor board members chose to wait until next month to take any action on the bill, noting they may be able to vote to waive the fees without state legislation under emergency orders from the state.