Com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove ex­pan­sion of Class D liquor li­cense

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously passed a mea­sure rec­om­mended by the lo­cal liquor board that would de­fine and ex­pand the abil­i­ties of what liquor dis­tillers in the county can sell dur­ing the Tues­day, Jan. 24, meet­ing.

The Queen Anne’s County Board of Li­cense Com­mis­sion­ers, known as the liquor board, unan­i­mously ap­proved the mea­sure af­ter a pub­lic hear­ing was held.

The mea­sure re­garded a bill introduced in the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly by Del. Steve Arentz that de­fines the use of a Class D Beer, Wine and Liquor and Class 9 Lim­ited Dis­tillery Li­cense in the county. House Bill 0047 states a holder of a Class 9 Lim­ited Dis­tillery Li­cense would be al­lowed to serve mixed drinks on­site us­ing only liquor dis­tilled on premise, as well as gives it the op­por­tu­nity to sell its prod­uct for off­site con­sump­tion. The bill would only ap­ply in Queen Anne’s County.

Though leg­is­la­tion was passed last year to al­low the dis­tri­bu­tion of a Class D liquor li­cense, it was passed as a lo­cal cour­tesy bill, al­low­ing each ju­ris­dic­tion to ap­prove cer­tain parts of the bill but noth­ing more than what was orig­i­nally out­lined.

Be­cause House Bill 0047 is spe­cific to Queen Anne’s County, hear­ings were held at the liquor board and county com­mis­sion level so the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly could have pub­lic in­put be­fore tak­ing ac­tion, County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gregg Todd said.

Jef­frey Thomp­son, at­tor­ney for the liquor board, told the com­mis­sion­ers the bill would al­low the dis­til­leries to “be able to ex­pand and be given what amounts to a tav­ern li­cense,” al­low­ing them to serve drinks on site.

The an­nual li­cense fee for a Class D liquor li­cense is $1,800.

A State Class D li­cense al­lows the sale of beer, wine and liquor for on-site con­sump­tion, but the com­mis­sion­ers voted to only al­low the sale of prod­uct dis­tilled on-site. Al­low­ing the sale of beer and wine pro­duced by a mem­ber of a Mary­land Craft Pro­duc­ers Guild was dis­cussed, but the com­mis­sion­ers did not ap­prove that mea­sure.

The amend­ment to al­low lo­cal dis­tillers the op­por­tu­nity to sell other Mary­land-made prod­ucts was introduced by John Cook, founder of Black­wa­ter Dis­till­ing. “The state level li­censes es­sen­tially al­lows a holder of a Class 9 Dis­tillery Li­cense to ap­ply for a county level Class D Tav­ern Li­cense in or­der to al­low that busi­ness to serve cock­tails on-site, in ad­di­tion to op­er­ate as a dis­tillery,” he said.

The cur­rent county Class D li­cense does not al­low dis­tillers the abil­ity to sell mixed drinks.

In sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion that was introduced al­low­ing mixed drink sales “as the state level leg­is­la­tion was in­tended to cover,” Cook also wanted the abil­ity to sell off-premise Mary­land craft spir­its, beers and wine.

The rea­sons Cook stated were for ad­vo­cacy of a grow­ing sec­tor in the Mary­land econ­omy as well as pro­vide the sale of Mary­land-made al­co­hol “with­out hav­ing to leave the county.” He said that is usu­ally an “un­der­ser ved part of the in­dus­try” in lo­cal liquor stores be­cause many pro­duc­ers are self­dis­tributed, so avail­abil­ity can be hard to find.

Cur­rently, the county only has two liquor dis­tillers— Black­wa­ter and White Tiger.

It­sara Oun­narath, owner of White Tiger Dis­tillery, agreed with Cook and the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion. “As a small busi­ness try­ing to get start up, com­pet­ing with the big in­dus­try, the big­ger brands, we re­ally don’t have any ad­van­tage,” Oun­narath said. He said the bill would help “a small guy to even the play­ing field” be­cause it doesn’t have big dis­tri­bu­tion on its side.

For­mer County Com­mis­sioner Gene Ran­som, who sits on the liquor board, said this bill was introduced for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pur­poses as it would al­low the dis­tillery to ex­pand its sales. “These dis­tillers are lo­cal small busi­nesses, and this will help them grow their busi­ness,” Ran­som said.

Be­cause the bill has to be passed by the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly, which is set to hear the mat­ter at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 where the liquor board will tes­tify on be­half of the county, sim­ply pass­ing the draft al­low­ing only on­premise sales of prod­ucts and mixed drinks, “there’s noth­ing that says the Gen­eral As­sem­bly couldn’t do some­thing dif­fer­ent, Ran­som said.

Ran­som sug­gested the most conservative mea­sure would be to pass the bill as it was introduced so it could be heard in the 90-day open win­dow of the state leg­is­la­ture. “What we’re re­ally do­ing here is mak­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion to An­napo­lis.”

If ap­proved at the state level, the bill would be take ef­fect on Oct. 1.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

For­mer Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sioner Gene Ran­som, who sits on the lo­cal liquor board, ex­plains to the county com­mis­sion­ers House Bill 0047 dur­ing its Tues­day, Jan. 24, that would ex­pand the abil­i­ties of lo­cal dis­tillers.

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