Readers of this blog may remember efforts that our principal, Sean Morris, engaged in last year to revise Montgomery County’s requirement that all liquor license applications include at least one individual who has been a resident of the County for two years or more. (You can read more here). That legislation, which would have permitted residents of some neighboring jurisdictions to also hold county-issued licenses, passed the Maryland House of Delegates, did not get out of committee in the state Senate.
Now, this year, the Montgomery County delegation is taking a different — and I think far better — approach. Based on the list of proposed legislation recently unveiled, the delegation is advocating for the legislature to pass a law empowering the County’s Board of License Commissioners (commonly known as the Liquor Board) to grant a waiver to the residency requirement. This authority would appear to reserve to the Liquor Board’s discretion when invoking the residency requirement might not be necessary.
(As a side note here, earlier this fall we presented this idea of a residency waiver to one of the members of our County Council, who was warm to the idea. Whether this discussion and this proposed legislation are connected is not clear, but we are glad that folks are listening to our concerns.)
This legislation of course invites the question of when it would be appropriate for the Liquor Board to exercise such discretion, and provides an opportunity for applicants to advocate before the Board as to why their case might deserve such an waiver. Examples come to mind of an applicant who intends to work full-time at their new restaurant in the County, lives close by in a neighboring jurisdiction, and would thereby be attentive and responsive to the needs and interests of the community. Such an applicant, it would seem, should be far preferable to a detached, disinterested individual who, while having no interest or involvement in the restaurant, happens to live in Montgomery County and be willing to appear on the application (which is common under the current regime).
Were this legislation to pass in its current form, the applicant would need 4 of the 5 members of the Liquor Board to approve the waiver request. And it will take a few months at least to get a sense of what criteria the Board will use in assessing waiver requests. So finding a resident agent may still be preferable, if only to eliminate this uncertainty. But it does provide an option where a suitable resident agent cannot be identified. And we welcome additional options.