Expansion of county liquor inspector powers proposed
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.”