This will be the first of what I hope will be several posts on interesting new laws that came out of the 2014 Maryland legislative session. This post concerns new alcoholic beverage licensing laws in Montgomery County, Maryland. Many of these new laws were the product of the County’s Nighttime Economy Task Force, which was aimed at making the County a more attractive place to those seeking lively after-hours offerings. Unless otherwise indicated, these laws go into effect on July 1, 2014:
- Ratios of Food to Alcohol Sales: Restaurants and taverns holding licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor have been required to keep records showing that the total sales of alcoholic beverages does not exceed those of food. Starting July 1, however, the minimum food sales has been decreased to 40%, thus allowing for bars and taverns to provide a greater offering of high-end (and thus more expensive) beers, wines and cocktails.
- Class D-BWL (Beer Wine & Liquor) Licenses: The county Board of License Commissioners may now issue a Class D license for on-premise consumption of beer, wine and liquor. This license provides for the same 60/40 alcoholic beverage, but only requires the ratios to be met during the hours before 9pm, thus allowing the establishment to cater to those more interested in beer, wine and cocktails during those later hours.
- Later Last Call: New Class D license holders, as well as those holding Class B-BWL, will be entitled to serve alcohol until 3am, instead of 2am.
- Limits on Number of Licenses Lifted: Prior restrictions on a person holding multiple alcoholic beverage licenses have been lifted such that an individual may hold up to 10 Class B licenses, which allow for on-premise sales at hotels and restaurants, in the county. This will be significant to operators with, or seeking to establish, multiple locations in the County.
- Beauty Salon License: Montgomery County beauty salons will be able to apply for and obtain a beer and wine license, notwithstanding the fact that they do not serve food. That local salons could not provide such a service to their customers has long been seen as a hindrance in their competition with similar salons in the District of Columbia.
This list is not exhaustive and some other laws were passed affecting other types of businesses or specific localities, but these appear to be the laws that will affect the widest range of bars and restaurants and have an impact on the lives of most County residents.
Next up: Laws affecting small alcoholic beverage producers and distributors.