Ex­pan­sion of county liquor in­spec­tor pow­ers pro­posed

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

CENTREVILLE — Hav­ing been re­liant on grants to com­plete com­pli­ance checks for pack­age stores and restau­rants sell­ing al­co­hol, Queen Anne’s County could soon have a new tool that would al­low flex­i­bil­ity in how it keeps lo­cal busi­nesses in check.

In an amend­ment re­quest from the Queen Anne’s County Board of Li­cense Com­mis­sion­ers, known as the liquor board, that would change the al­co­holic bev­er­ages ar­ti­cle sec­tion 27-205 of the an­no­tated code of Mary­land to bet­ter de­fine the lo­cal liquor in­spec­tors pow­ers, the county com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously ap­proved the amend­ment re­quest dur­ing its Tues­day, Jan. 24, meet­ing.

Be­cause the amend­ment would change a state law, known as a lo­cal courtesy bill, the amend­ment will now be dis­cussed in the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly where of­fi­cials will re­ceive tes­ti­mony for or against the ac­tion.

“One of the things that we’ve heard re­peat­edly from the cit­i­zens that come to us and from oth­ers is that there aren’t enough en­force­ment tools, and this is a way that we can use our cur­rent re­sources more ef­fi­ciently,” Liquor Board mem­ber Gene Ran­som said to the com­mis­sion­ers.

With­out hav­ing to rely on state po­lice re­sources for com­pli­ance checks, the liquor in­spec­tor will now work with the sher­iff’s of­fice to ideally do ran­dom con­trolled buys to see if sell­ers are check­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Though the in­spec­tor doesn’t have the au­thor­ity to is­sue a crim­i­nal ci­ta­tion, which has to be writ­ten up by a deputy, it does have the power to write a civil ci­ta­tion.

The amend­ment states that at unan­nounced times, the in­spec­tor will visit each lo­ca­tion once ev­ery 60 days, will in­ves­ti­gate all vi­o­la­tions of the al­co­holic bev­er­ages law and will re­port those vi­o­la­tions to the lo­cal liquor board.

Ran­som said that though his im­pres­sion of li­censed bev­er­age hold­ers in the county is very high, “that doesn’t mean we don’t need to have checks and bal­ances.”

Hav­ing been re­liant on grant money to have state troop­ers con­duct the com­pli­ance checks, Ran­som said long pe­ri­ods of time had passed when no checks of un­der­age drink­ing sales were com­pleted be­cause of a lack of fund­ing. “To go that long a pe­riod of time with­out check­ing...is clearly a prob­lem,” Ran­som said. “We want to change that.”

As to not pick on any busi­nesses, Ran­som said the liquor board is most likely plan­ning to have a reg­u­lar, ran­dom ro­ta­tion where the in­spec­tor will check li­censees.

War­ren Wright, who spoke dur­ing the meet­ing and is a mem­ber of the county’s Drug Free Coali­tion, said the coali­tion is “united in sup­port for the amend­ment.” He said the change is “a com­mon sense an­swer to the is­sue of com­pli­ance checks in our county.”

Kathy Wright, a li­censed clin­i­cal al­co­hol and drug coun­selor also spoke in fa­vor of the amend­ment.

Cit­ing the re­cent Mary­land Youth Risk Be­hav­ior Sur­vey, she said 287 county kids drove a car af­ter drink­ing, 787 had a drink of al­co­hol and 490 had at least five drinks in a row in the last 30 days. “Com­pared to pre­vi­ous sur­veys, al­co­hol use is down, but we’re still above the Mary­land av­er­age, and Mar yland is above the na­tional av­er­age.”

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