Should MoCo Grocery Stores Be Allowed to Sell Beer and Wine? County Council Weighs in

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Should MoCo Grocery Stores Be Allowed to Sell Beer and Wine? County Council Weighs in

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As you might have noticed, most grocery stores in MoCo do not currently sell beer and wine. This past Monday, MoCo’s county council met and discussed a new Maryland bill that would potentially change this.

The bill, introduced by District 15’s Delegate Lily Qi, would guarantee access for a Class A beer and wine license for grocery stores in specific areas and make it allowable for grocery stores in other areas to obtain these licenses as well. The areas with guaranteed access, labeled as “areas of priority funding”, have fewer grocery stores and residents are less readily able to access fresh food.

Besides allowing easier access to beer and wine in grocery stores, proponents say that this bill would encourage new grocery stores to move to certain areas because they would be incentivized by the guarantee of having a beer and wine license.  In turn, this would allow residents to have easier access to new sources of fresh food.

The bill states that in order to be eligible for a Class A license, the stores must offer a full line of food products in at least six different categories– some of these categories include fresh fruits and vegetables, uncooked meat/poultry/seafood, dairy products, and more. Other stipulations include that at least 50% of the square footage is dedicated to the sale of food or (non-alcoholic) beverages.

The county council spoke for around 40 minutes about this topic before eventually deciding to table their decision.  One of the main factors that came into play was that the discussion of the bill was added as a last minute agenda item and council members were not provided with a briefing beforehand.

Some council members support the bill, Councilmember Hans Riemer said it was “long overdue.” Councilmember Andrew Friedson asserted that “residents are understandably confused about our complex alcohol laws, probably the biggest one they’re confused about is why they can’t purchase beer and wine in grocery stores– this is a rare restriction across the country.” 

Some members raised concerns–  including that it could be detrimental to small businesses.  There was a worry that a large store such as Costco would be able to offer beer and wine and that smaller stores would not be able to compete with the low prices.  However, the bill states that only stores “for which the premises do not exceed 15,000 square feet” would be admitted a license under this bill. (For reference, a typical Costco is anywhere from 73,000-200,000 square feet and would far exceed this limit.)

Ultimately, the council decided to table any further action until their next meeting, largely due to having a lack of time to read more about the bill.

A summary of the bill can be found here and the bill in its entirety can be found here.

A full recording of the Council meeting can be found here.

By: Michelle Katz @pike.and.rozay

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About the Author

Michelle Katz
Michelle Katz has lived in MoCo for most of her life– she was born and raised in the Gaithersburg area and now lives in Rockville. ⁣ ⁣ She is currently a high school art teacher in MCPS. In addition to teaching and working at the MoCoShow, Michelle also runs a local instagram account, @pike.and.rozay, where she features food photography from restaurants in Pike & Rose and the surrounding area. ⁣ ⁣ She is passionate about supporting local businesses and enjoys the opportunity to help keep everyone in the MoCo community informed.

3 Comments on "Should MoCo Grocery Stores Be Allowed to Sell Beer and Wine? County Council Weighs in"

  1. Christopher Yurgal | February 27, 2021 at 10:03 am | Reply

    Yes

  2. The only people who have a question about this seem to be the County Council. MoCo makes a pile of money selling beer, wine, and liquor, and they would be loathe to lose that money. We are one of the few states in the entire country that restricts our purchase of beer and wine to County liquor stores. So – I say “yes” to being able to buy beer and wine in grocery stores – and convenience stores, for that matter.

  3. The County should get out of the sin business. Come up with some reasonable rules (to be determined), and let business happen.

    Given the impact on public health, it would make more sense for the County to operate Tobacco Stores, and be the only outlet available. Then jack up taxes high enough that they create a black market (that’s the Government Way!).

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