Eli Dinerman has announced that he plans to open the first dedicated kosher full service wine shop in the Baltimore area next month, in an existing brick and mortar building on Reisterstown Road, in lower Pikesville on the Baltimore County side of the city county line.

Application has been made to the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners and that approval is the final step before the opening of Baltimore’s first pure play kosher wine shop.

Kosher wine is a market niche. For the unenlightened, kosher wine is made in precisely the same way as ‘regular’ wine. The only difference is that there is rabbinical oversight during the process and that the wine is only handled “by Sabbath-observant Jews.”

This is going to be a Kosher wine shop (i.e., they will Not sell non-Kosher wine). There will be limited beer and spirits with special Kosher certification, but no cooler as is often found in retail outlets.

The new wine shop has received wide support from the Jewish community.

The shop will be closed on Friday night and Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and also on Sunday (as required by County law) and on Jewish holidays. The pure play on kosher alcoholic beverages and that it will be closed on what would be peak hours for another package good store has resulted in no known opposition from other merchants in the area. If this license went to someone else, they would likely be a direct competitor of existing licensees.

Baltimore has 2 kosher supermarkets (including Seven Mile, one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the country), 4 kosher bakeries, 2 kosher butchers, and at least 24 kosher restaurants, but no dedicated kosher wine shop.

Other communities with a smaller Jewish population than Baltimore have kosher wine shops, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. There are more than 50 kosher wine shops in New York state.

Nearby Baltimore County retailers carry between 50 and 200 varieties of kosher wine (many only at Passover holiday time), and such may be the same for area restaurants with a package goods side operation, while the nearest kosher wine shop in Philadelphia carries over 800. This shop will help the County and State capture tax dollars currently lost because, anecdotally we know many Baltimore kosher wine purchasers travel to Lakewood, New Jersey for its selection; there is a daily bus where one can observe cases of kosher wine coming back to Baltimore. In 2014, the Maryland General considered HB 830 that would have allowed Maryland consumers access to those other wines, but the compromise that saw the bill withdrawn fell apart and today, the vast majority of kosher wines are still not available to Maryland consumers.

According to a 2020 report by the Orthodox Union, the leading organization that certifies food products as kosher, the kosher wine market is growing at a rate of 20% per year, with over 2,500 kosher wine varieties now available from growers across the world. This shop will strive to carry 1,000 of those varieties before the Rosh Hashanah holiday this fall.

That wholesale distributors will soon make 1,000 kosher wines available to all retailers in Maryland, who will share in the larger market opportunity that will benefit all, in addition to educating and elevating a more sophisticated kosher wine populous.

There is no doubt a need for a dedicated kosher wine shop. A 2020 Brandeis University study found there is an increase of 11% in the number of Jewish households in the Baltimore area in the last 10 years. So this is a growing market, especially in the Orthodox Jewish community that is at least 21% of those households. Of 95,400 Jews in this market, 57% are in the Pikesville, Park Heights, Mt. Washington, Owings Mills, and Reisterstown area, within 5 miles of the new shop.

This wine shop will appeal to far more than only Orthodox Jews, with 83% of Baltimore Jews attending a Passover seder each year, there is an appeal for kosher wine among the broader Jewish population, including Conservative and Reform Jews who may not otherwise keep a kosher household.

The wine shop, to be located at 302 Reisterstown Road in a vacant retail space in a challenged area of lower Pikesville that will benefit from the revitalization, will be the answer to Eli Dinerman’s long term hopes. He relocated his family to Pikesville from Brooklyn in search of a business opport

unity and better lifestyle for his wife and children. And while he is the chief compliance officer at an ambulance service, at the same time teaching CPR courses, including teaching at a local community college, the 31 year old with an MBA saw this need when the wine shop in his old Brooklyn neighborhood carries nearly 1,000 kosher wines, but the wine shop nearest his new home carried maybe 50.

Eli Dinerman has made application to the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners and approval by the panel is the final hurdle in opening Baltimore’s first dedicated kosher full service wine shop. The hearing is on March 15. Watch this blog for the hearing result and ideally an opening date.

Almost 86 years to the day after the repeal of Prohibition, the Maryland General Assembly commenced on January 8, 2020.

That 440th legislative session in Maryland was, for the first time since the Civil War, cut short, ending three weeks early.

Despite the abridged, less than 90 day full session, the legislature acted on 1,664 House bills and 12 resolutions and 1,081 Senate bills and 6 resolutions with 667 bills passing both chambers before they adjourned sine die on March 18, 2020. The Governor has until the 30th day after presentment to sign or veto bills.

This post is a review of key alcoholic beverage legislation enacted this session and awaiting the Governor’s signature.

We would be remiss if we did not mention that this is being written while Maryland is still in a state of emergency as described in our prior post, COVID-19 Orders Authorize Carry Out and Delivery of Alcoholic Beverages in Maryland.

In terms of context, on December 5, 1933 Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment and ending over 13 years as a dry nation. Resistance to Prohibition across Maryland had been strong. But the vestiges of Prohibition continue in Maryland with the laws that today govern alcoholic beverages, including a hodgepodge of county by county regulation and a “three tier” distribution system that is all but unchanged since 1933. This year of a short legislative session no doubt saved Marylanders from some additional regulation, but the new laws compiled below, while adding to the alcoholic beverage regulatory scheme, merely tweak production, distribution and sales. Savvy players in the alcoholic beverage industrial complex will find business opportunities to lead and profit in matters of beer, wine and spirits, including opportunities advantaged by these newly enacted laws.


HB 900 / SB 911 delays the effective date of last year’s legislation, which establishes the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC), from June 1, 2020, to January 1, 2021, and extends the expiration dates of the initial terms of the members of ATC. The bill grants authorized employees of the Field Enforcement Division of the Comptroller’s Office transferred to ATC the powers of police and peace officers and classifies them as police officers and law enforcement officers, as specified. The bill also requires ATC and the Comptroller’s Office to cooperate in their respective duties related to alcohol and tobacco regulation, as specified, and clarifies the responsibilities of ATC and the Comptroller’s Office under last year’s legislation.

HB 902 / SB 765 repeals various requirements that an alcoholic beverages license applicant or license holder be a registered voter, taxpayer, and/or resident of a jurisdiction for a period of time (generally one or more years) as a condition for obtaining or maintaining a license and instead, generally requires the applicant or licensee to be a resident, voter, and/or taxpayer of the State or a local jurisdiction at the time of application and during the license period. The bill applies to various State and locally issued alcoholic beverages licenses and permits.

SB 118 a departmental bill, establishes statutory definitions for “alcohol production” and “agricultural alcohol production” in the Land Use Article. Either or both definitions may be (but are not required to be) adopted by a local jurisdiction by local ordinance, resolution, law, or rule.

City of Annapolis

HB 844 / SB 503 establishes a club public event permit in the City of Annapolis. The City of Annapolis Board of License Commissioners may issue the permit to the holder of a Class C alcoholic beverages license. The permit authorizes a club to sell alcoholic beverages that are allowed under the club’s Class C license during a public event, at the place described in the license, to an individual who is not a member of the club or a guest of the member for on-premises consumption. The permit holder must submit an application for approval to the board at least 45 days before a public event and obtain approval from the board before each public event. The board may approve up to 12 public events per permit holder in a calendar year.

Anne Arundel County

HB 138 / SB 052 clarifies that the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners may consider, when issuing Class A, Class B, or Class D off-sale alcoholic beverages licenses, whether an establishment is located in an assessment district in which the ratio of Class A, Class B, or Class D off-sale licenses per individual is more or less than one license per 4,000 individuals. An assessment district is a tax assessment district established by the county through local law.

HB 285 requires the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to publish a meeting agenda no later than one week before the hearing; make each open meeting available to the public with live video and audio streaming; and publish the minutes of each open meeting, as specified, no later than one month after the meeting.

HB 329 authorizes the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to post a completed alcoholic beverages license application online at least 10 days prior to the hearing date, instead of posting this notification in a newspaper, as currently required. The board must require an applicant to post a suitable notice in a conspicuous place at the location described in the application for at least 10 days.

HB 330 / SB 057 an emergency bill repeals the petition of support requirement in Anne Arundel County for alcoholic beverages license applications.

HB 461 / SB 141 raises the salaries of the chief inspector, deputy chief inspector, and general inspectors employed by the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners.

HB 554 / SB 239 establishes a Class C (small yacht club) license in Anne Arundel County and authorizes the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to issue the license to a small yacht club that meets specified requirements. A license holder may sell beer, wine, and liquor to yacht club members and guests accompanied by members on the yacht club premises. The license holder may purchase alcoholic beverages from a retail dealer.

HB 638 / SB 143 alters the requirements for the approval of alcoholic beverages license transfers in Anne Arundel County. The bill specifies that the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners is not bound by a specific statutory limitation if a creditor’s claim involves indebtedness incurred through the purchase or sale of alcoholic beverages in connection with the licensed premises. Additionally, the bill authorizes the board, if the board determines that a properly filed claim is outside its expertise, to approve an application for the transfer of a license or an application for a new license if there is an amicable resolution of the claim or a judicial determination on the claim.

HB 714 / SB 525 establishes a gift basket permit in Anne Arundel County. The bill authorizes the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to issue the permit to a person: whose primary business is the sale and delivery of flowers; whose business includes the sale and delivery of gift baskets of flowers, food, or other items; and does not hold another alcoholic beverages license or permit. The board is prohibited from issuing a permit for use in conjunction with or on the premises of a chain store, supermarket, or discount house. A permit holder may sell and deliver, to consumers of a legal drinking age located in the county, gift baskets containing specified volumes of beer, wine, or liquor products, purchased from a retail license holder. The permit holder must maintain records and submit reports required by the board. The annual permit fee is $100.

HB 758 / SB 221 requires the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to employ one full-time executive director and one full-time administrator and specifies the pay grades for these positions. In addition, the bill increases, from one to two, the number of full-time secretaries the board must employ.

SB 037 / HB 430 requires, in Anne Arundel County, that prior to a license renewal, holders of Class B beer and light wine; Class H beer and light wine; Class B beer, wine, and liquor; or Class H beer, wine, and liquor licenses must attest in a sworn statement that the gross receipts from food sales for the 12-month period immediately preceding the application for renewal were at least 51% of the gross receipts from the sale of food and alcoholic beverages, as specified.

SB 126 / HB 558 an emergency bill alters the manner in which the holder of an entertainment facility license in Anne Arundel County may sell beer, wine, and liquor to include the sale by the glass or by the bottle. The bill expands the scope of authorized acts that may be performed in the licensed entertainment facility, as specified. The bill authorizes the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to allow the holder of an entertainment facility license to sell alcoholic beverages for promotional events in an area adjacent to the entertainment facility if that area is both under controlled access of the license holder and is a parking lot, picnic ground, building, or terrace controlled by the license holder. The bill also authorizes the board to revoke an entertainment facility license for displays of nudity and sexual acts at the entertainment facility, as specified.

SB 194 / HB 536 an emergency bill authorizes the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners to allow a license holder to transfer an alcoholic beverages license to another premises in the same tax assessment district in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations on transfers of licenses if the premises for which the license was issued is (1) substantially destroyed by fire, explosion, or catastrophe; (2) taken by condemnation; or (3) taken by the exercise of the power of eminent domain.

Baltimore City

HB 168 clarifies that the hours of sale for a Class B-D-7 license located in the area bounded by Liberty Heights Avenue, Northern Parkway, Druid Park Drive, and Wabash Avenue are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Continue Reading Maryland Enacts New Alcoholic Beverage Laws in 2020

Most Marylanders are now aware of Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr.’s March 23, 2020 Executive Order in response to the global coronavirus outbreak closing non-essential businesses, however, the Interpretive Guidance issued by the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel makes clear the order does NOT require “alcoholic beverage stores and distributors, distilleries, and wineries” to close.

Additionally, in response to the earlier March 16, 2020 Order “restaurants and bars are subject to specific provisions of the Order, and are required to close (EXCEPT FOR CARRY-OUT, DELIVERY, AND DRIVE-THROUGH SALES).” [Emphasis added.]

That March 16 Order provides in relevant part,

All Restaurants and Bars are hereby closed to the general public, effective as of 5:00 p.m. on March 16, 2020, except that, to the extent permitted by applicable law, and in accordance with any social-distancing recommendations of the Maryland Department of Health food and beverages may be:

i.   Sold if such food and beverages are promptly taken from the premises, i.e., on a carry-out or drive-through basis; and

ii.  delivered to customers off the premises.

Other states, including Pennsylvania have closed liquor stores as nonessential businesses, so many may not have been aware of the economic opportunity in the two enumerated sections, permitting the sale of beer, wine and spirits for carry out and delivery across Maryland. And this is potentially huge while these businesses are otherwise indefinitely shut down by the government when in most instances these businesses were not previously delivering alcoholic beverages.

While state law has provided for delivery, nearly every Board of Alcoholic Beverage Commissioners in Maryland established a procedure to approve deliveries in their respective county. As a threshold matter, of course deliveries of beer, wine and spirits may only be made by a licensee in the county where they are licensed. But few bars and restaurants or even package good stores have taken advantage of the ability to deliver alcohol.

Now, some local jurisdictions are providing for expedited approvals to deliveries (especially in light of the fact that most Boards are not holding hearing during the emergency), including, in Baltimore County,

Temporary License Allowance for Delivery

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board is temporarily allowing Class A, B and D license holders to deliver alcoholic beverages to citizens in Baltimore County only. Be advised you must adhere to Rule 9—Delivery Outside of the Licensed Premises of the Board’s Rules and Regulations. To take advantage of this delivery privilege, you must send your request in writing to the Board for approval. You may send a formal request by email to liquorboard@baltimorecountymd.gov. Any establishment that has been penalized for service to minors in the past three years will not be considered.

The Anne Arundel County liquor board is also asking license holders that want to deliver or sell off premises to seek approval by emailing LQHAGN00@aacounty.org. The Montgomery County board of license commissioners approved a resolution to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine to go with a meal during this period. Businesses must apply for approval. Garrett County also requires application and approval and requires a signed for by the receiver of each delivery (described by some as burdensome).

Other jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, are interpreting that the Executive Order trumps their local rules and now authorizes delivery without any special application of approval, at least through the end of the emergency. The Howard County liquor board has passed a resolution authorizing restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and liquor stores to deliver and carry out, but a “Class B licensee may only deliver alcoholic beverages as part of an order that includes food,” all subject to other modest requirements within the resolution. Frederick County is temporarily allowing carry out and delivery by restaurants, clubs, breweries and distilleries, including expressly mixed drinks in a sealed and wrapped container.

While facing major disruptions and unprecedented volatility in their businesses, some entrepreneurial restaurants have even lowered wine prices to compete with the usually lower priced packaged goods stores (.. at least one restaurant has “half price bottle of wine Wednesday” today).

And lest you question how large an opportunity this can be in Maryland, the Denver Mayor ordered liquor stores closed, only to reverse the order later the very same day after customers swarmed to stock up on beverages.

With no end date in sight, that bars, restaurants and alcoholic beverage stores may now offer alcoholic beverages for carry out and delivery may be a economic lifesaver!  The rules vary between local jurisdictions in Maryland. Law firms are also deemed an essential business, so we remain open and if we can access key information to help you understand, prepare and respond quickly to the significant legal and business challenges of delivery of alcoholic beverages related to COVID-19, we are ready to help you.

This post was updated on March 23, 2020.

The U.S. Trade Representative is reviewing a list of additional European goods, including Scotch whiskies and French wines, for 100% tariffs.

The proposed duty to be paid on this very large class of alcoholic beverages will have a huge dollar impact not only on American wine drinkers, but also on a wide breadth of American businesses. The USTR is inviting public comments with respect to the imposition of those price doubling additional duties on specific products of specific EU member states. You should consider commenting.

This dispute dates to October 6, 2004, when the United States requested the World Trade Organization settle disputes with the European communities (now the EU), France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom (certain member States) concerning certain illegal subsidies granted by the EU and member States to the EU large civil aircraft domestic industry (i.e., subsidies to Airbus). The WTO ruled for the U.S. and after failed negotiations, in October 2019, the WTO supported a U.S. request to impose tariffs.

Some of those products are already subject to duties or proposed duties of 10% or 25%.

Then in early December, the USTR proposed tariffs in response to the new French digital services tax, on French wine, including Champagne, that had not been included in the October tariff. And later in the month the USTR proposed to impose tariffs on more products, from bed linens to helicopter parts, including levies as high as 100% on nearly all wine from the EU.

So yes, because the EU illegally subsidized Airbus prices two decades ago, American consumers in 2020 are going to pay double for sparkling wine including Champagne, and more.

Irish and Scotch whiskies are proposed for the duty as is Cognac. Nearly all “wine of fresh grapes” from EU countries is now included.

In 2020 when California sober is “out” and Washington drunk is “in” one might think Washington imposing tariffs on alcoholic beverages, while necessary foreign policy is bad domestic policy.

The USTR is inviting interested persons to comment on whether specific products of specific EU member states should be removed from the list or should remain on the list, and if a product remains on the list, whether the current rate of duty should be increased to as high as 100%. The specific list can be found at the comment link below.

The USTR is soliciting public comments, although few have been received from the domestic alcoholic beverage industry on “whether maintaining or imposing additional duties on specific products of one or more specific EU member states would cause disproportionate economic harm to U.S. interests, including small or medium-size businesses and consumers.” If you are an importer, distributor, retailer, restauranteur, or a wine lover, you may wish to comment.

To be assured of consideration, submit comments by January 13, 2020.

The General Assembly is Maryland’s legislative body. The legislature meets in regular session for 90 days each year beginning the second Wednesday in January to act on more than 2,500 pieces of legislation.

On sine die, when the legislature adjourned its 439th session at midnight on the 90th day, on April 8, 2019, a total of 864 bills and 2 resolutions passed both chambers. Most of the legislation enacted in that 2019 General Assembly session, including those bills involving matters of alcoholic beverages, were effective on October 1, 2019.

This is a compilation of the more than 60 new laws involving alcoholic beverages. You can read each of the bills highlighted below at General Assembly.

Savvy players in the alcoholic beverage industrial complex will find business opportunities to lead and profit in matters of beer, wine and spirits, including opportunities advantaged by these newly enacted laws.

Statewide Alcoholic Beverages Regulation

In Maryland, alcoholic beverages manufacturers and wholesalers are regulated by the State Comptroller’s Office, while alcoholic beverages retailers are regulated by local boards of license commissioners. House Bill 1052 (passed) establishes the new Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and transferring most of the staff, powers, and duties related to alcoholic beverages and tobacco from the Comptroller’s Office to ATC. The Governor vetoed the legislation, but the General Assembly overrode the veto during the 2019 session. The new ATC consists of five members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.

In January 2017, the alcoholic beverage distributor Diageo announced plans to open a Guinness brewery in Baltimore County. At that time, the law regulating on-premises sales and sampling for Class 5 breweries limited the sale and sampling to 500 barrels of beer each year. In 2017 the legislature made significant changes the manner in which Class 5 breweries were regulated to accommodate Diageo. This year, Senate Bill 801/House Bill 1010 (both passed) further enhance the privileges associated with a Class 5 brewery license, a Class 7 micro-brewery license, and a Class 8 farm brewery license. Among other things, the bills increase to 5,000 barrels the amount of beer that Class 5 and Class 7 breweries may sell each year for on-premises consumption, allow Class 5 breweries to brew and bottle malt beverages at the locations described on their individual storage permits, authorize Class 7 breweries to brew up to 45,000 barrels of malt beverages each calendar year, and authorize certain Class 5, Class 7, and Class 8 breweries to self-distribute up to 5,000 barrels of their own beer through the use of a Class 7 limited beer wholesaler’s license. The bills also set the hours of sale for Class 8 farm breweries at 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Established in 1974, the Beer Franchise Fair Dealing Act regulates the agreements, franchises, and relationships between beer manufacturers and their distributors (wholesalers). Among other things, the Act prohibits a brewery from terminating a contract with a distributor without good cause. Senate Bill 704/House Bill 1080 (both passed) shorten the franchise agreement termination process for a brewery that produces 20,000 or fewer barrels of beer per year. Such a brewery must wait 45 days, rather than 180 days, after notifying a distributor of its intent to terminate or refuse to renew a beer franchise agreement before terminating the agreement. Additionally, such a brewery is authorized to terminate or refuse to continue or renew a franchise agreement without good cause and is no longer required to give its distributor an opportunity to correct a deficiency if that is the reason the agreement is being terminated. However, the bills require the brewery to compensate the distributor for the fair market value of the terminated franchise and establish an arbitration process if the brewery and the distributor cannot otherwise reach a compensation agreement.

Mead is a fermented alcoholic beverage made primarily of honey and water. Production of mead dates to 9,000 years ago. Mead is categorized as a honey wine for federal excise tax purposes. As a result, mead has historically been considered a wine in Maryland for regulatory purposes, even though State law is silent on the issue, and has been taxed accordingly. Senate Bill 596 (passed) reclassifies mead by expanding the definition of “beer” to include mead and applies the same alcoholic beverages tax rate to mead that is imposed on beer.

A Class 1 distillery license authorizes the establishment and operation of a plant for distilling any amount of brandy, rum, whiskey, alcohol, and neutral spirits at the location described in the license. A Class 1 distillery license also authorizes the license holder to conduct guided tours; serve samples; and sell up to 2.25 liters of products manufactured on the licensed premises, for consumption off the licensed premises, and related merchandise, to persons of legal drinking age who participate in a guided tour of the licensed premises.

House Bill 549 (passed) authorizes a local alcoholic beverages licensing board to issue an on-site consumption permit to the holder of a Class 1 distillery license. The permit authorizes the sale of mixed drinks made from liquor produced by the distillery and other non-alcoholic ingredients for on-premises consumption. A distillery may only use up to 7,750 gallons of its own liquor for this purpose each year.

In 2016 the legislature authorized the Comptroller to grant a distillery off-site permit to a Class 1 distillery licensee or a Class 9 limited distillery licensee. House Bill 551 (passed) increases the number of farmers’ markets and other events that a distillery or limited distillery may participate in using a distillery off-site permit. Specifically, the bill repeals the 5-event limit on the number of farmers’ markets for which the permit may be used, and authorizes the permit to be used to participate in up to 32, rather than 6, other events each year.

House Bill 666 (passed) generally combines the nonprofit beer festival permit, nonprofit wine festival permit, and nonprofit liquor festival permit into a single nonprofit beer, wine, and liquor festival permit.

In general, an individual may not consume an alcoholic beverage in public nor possess an alcoholic beverage in an open container in public. House Bill 88 (passed) establishes that consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage in this manner is a code violation and a civil offense rather than a criminal misdemeanor. Under the bill, a violator receives a civil citation rather than being subject to arrest.

Local Alcoholic Beverages Legislation

Allegany County. Senate Bill 667/House Bill 866 (both passed) authorize the Board of License Commissioners to issue a Class D (on-sale) beer and wine arts and entertainment district license to a for-profit festival promoter for use at an entertainment event held in an arts and entertainment district in the county. In addition, the bills authorize the board to issue a Class L beer, wine, and liquor license to the holder of a manufacturer’s license. The Class L license authorizes the holder to sell or provide samples of beer, wine, and liquor produced by the holder or by another manufacturer’s licensee for on-premises consumption during the hours of sale applicable to the underlying manufacturer’s license.

Anne Arundel County. House Bill 770 (passed) authorizes the Board of License Commissioners to issue more than one Class B, Class H, or Class BLX license to an individual already holding an interest in a license of a similar class. The interest may be held, controlled by direct or indirect ownership, stock ownership, interlocking directors or interlocking stock ownership, or any other direct or indirect manner. However, the other license type and interest must not be for a franchise operation or chain store operation. Continue Reading More than 60 New Alcoholic Beverage Laws Create Opportunity in Maryland

The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overhaul the state regulation of retail alcoholic beverage licenses when it decides whether the state of Tennessee may limit the granting of liquor licenses only to individuals who have resided in state for 2 years or more. Many states and even counties have similar suspect restrictions, including Maryland.

The debate about alcohol’s place in American society is as old as the country. The first President once denounced alcohol as “the source of all evil—and the ruin of half the workmen in this Country.” George Washington, Letter to Thomas Green (Mar. 31, 1789). But the second President “enjoyed a tankard of hard cider with his breakfast every morning.” Thomas R. Pegram, Battling Demon Rum 8 (Ivan R. Dee 1998). That dichotomy persists because alcohol is not an ordinary article of commerce; it is arguably both widely enjoyed and dangerously misused. Centuries of regulatory experience confirm that there is no right answer; every approach, ranging from laissez faire to absolute prohibition, comes with tradeoffs. Weighing them necessarily depends on difficult value judgments and conditions that vary from time to time and place to place. Because striking the right balance requires appreciation of local factors, it makes sense to leave the regulation of alcohol to state and local officials. In general, that is precisely what the U.S. Constitution does, but ..

The 21st Amendment of the Constitution ratified in 1933 ending Prohibition (.. which was created by the 18th Amendment) provides that “[t]he transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” U.S. Const. amend. XXI, § 2. 2.

The Commerce Clause of the Constitution provides that “[t]he Congress shall have Power . . . [t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3.

And the offending Tennessee law provides, “No retail license under this section may be issued or transferred to or held by, to any individual: (A) Who has not been a bona fide resident of this state during the two-year period immediately preceding the date upon which application is made ..”

The issue as stated in the U.S. Supreme Court briefs is: Whether the 21st Amendment empowers states, consistent with the dormant commerce clause, to regulate liquor sales by granting retail or wholesale licenses only to individuals or entities that have resided in-state for a specified time.

The local Total Wine affiliate prevailed, overturning the limitation, at the federal District Court and that decision was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Betting on the outcome of a Supreme Court case is somewhere between divination and a guess. And the January 16th oral argument revealed no clear winner. There was general acquiescence that, if Total Wine was seeking to sell something else, for example milk, Tennessee’s limitation clearly would be unconstitutional, because it violates the Commerce Clause by discriminating against out of state applicants. The crux of the matter before the Justices, then, was whether the 21st Amendment trumps and permits the Tennessee law. It is probable the majority is unconvinced that states have complete latitude to regulate alcoholic beverages beyond the express language of the 21st Amendment, and Tennessee’s residency requirement is likely to fall.


A decision in the case is expected by summer in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair.

Adult Beverage Delivery Trending

The most popularly delivered alcoholic beverage product in the U.S. is Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Across the U.S. alcoholic beverage sales growth is decelerating, but still growing. That trend does not hold in Maryland where consumption was actually down last year for each beer, wine and spirits (.. with 19.054 gallons consumed per capita in 2018 down from 19.684 gallons consumed in 2017).

But there is a bright spot and a tremendous business opportunity in the retail sales of alcoholic beverages in Maryland.


It was recently widely reported that nationwide online alcohol delivery sales grew over 32% last year, increasing at an average rate of just about 3% month over month. There is no similar state specific good data on delivery in Maryland, but the trend line is similar.

Statistics in this arena are all over the board, including whether what is being tracked is sales by gallon versus dollar amount of sales. Consistently looking at sales by gallon, .. just over 50% of all online ordered deliveries are wine. Beer and spirits are within single digits of splitting the difference with nearly 25% each of deliveries.

It is reported the most popularly delivered wine, and alcoholic beverage product, is Veuve Clicquot champagne. Madame Clicquot, the French business woman who was very much a product of the French Revolution took over her husband’s wine business when widowed (veuve in French) at age 27 and developed a novel fermentation process still used today, died in 1866, but would be proud of the exports to America by the company that still bears her name. In a fun Maryland connection, Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, the Baltimore born first wife of Jerome Bonaparte, Napolean’s brother, was a known fan of Clicquot champagne.

Anecdotally, it is suggested that much of that Veuve Clicquot is gift giving and outside of personal consumption habits.

Bud Light was the most popular delivered beer. And Tito’s vodka was the most delivered spirit, actually representing nearly 3% of all deliveries.

The reported data does not purport any great difference in gender. That is, women purchase about 55% of alcoholic beverages that are delivered. Ages of those ordering for deliver skew a bit younger than sales generally, but again the variation, about 3 years younger, does not appear significant from a marketing perspective, although anecdotally it is suggested orders by app versus by telephone trend significantly younger (.. apparently older customers place their orders by telephone; possibly a landline).

Nationwide, supermarkets are poised to become the most important vehicle for alcoholic beverage deliveries (.. supermarkets currently represent 44% of wine sales and 25% of beer and spirits sales in the U.S.), but such will not be the case in Maryland where supermarkets are generally not permitted to sell adult beverages. Moreover, in Maryland where delivery can only be in the county where the packaged good retailor is licensed (not statewide as in nearly all other states), existing retailers are buttressed by the trend toward delivery.

In Maryland the market opportunity for delivery is with existing licensees and there is no good reason that the increase will not track nationwide statistics of more than 32% growth over last year.

As grocery stores and restaurants deliver exponentially larger quantities of food, beer, wine and spirits sales by delivery are only a step behind.

You cannot wait to deliver by autonomous vehicle or even drone. The market shift is happening now.

This is much more than only the impact that Amazon is already having on retail. Food delivery, in particular, is projected to grow by the double digits, at 12% per year, for each of the next five years. While grocery stores see some sales cannibalization, such has not been the case for restaurants, where more than 25% of consumers spend more on off-premises orders. But that many delivery sales do not include beverages, alcohol or otherwise, (.. despite that beverages provide high margins) presents a huge opportunity for increased sales.

And in Maryland that fast growing market for beer, wine and spirits delivery will, by law, be filled by existing alcoholic beverage license holders (i.e., Amazon Prime is not delivering beer in Maryland).

And this is not Homer’s dangerously wine-dark sea. Responding to that demand and after a change in state law, Alcoholic Beverages Article, § 3-506 et seq, that expressly provides for delivery, nearly every Board of Alcoholic Beverage Commissioners in Maryland now has a procedure to approve deliveries in their respective county. As a threshold matter, of course deliveries of beer, wine and spirits may only be made by a licensee in the county where they are licensed. This limiting factor is a huge boon to existing package good operations.

The rules vary from county to county. In Baltimore City, a licensee desiring to deliver alcoholic beverages must complete the Baltimore City Delivery Registration Application Form and receive a letter of authorization from the Board before deliveries may be made.

The City rule does not require a public hearing on the delivery request. But as a limiting factor, mimicking the 2015 state law “each delivery person shall be an employee of the licensee,” which arguably precludes the use of third party delivery companies? The rule also tracks the state enabling law expressly authorizing “delivery service upon request by customers through any mode of electronic contact (e.g. smartphone application, or internet on-line purchase, etc.).” Each delivery requires, “the signature of the intended recipient who is at least 21 years old, ..”

Baltimore County is currently proposing revisions to its rules, and its rules have historically been more limiting than other jurisdictions. A request for a letter of authorization to deliver requires that the licensees appear before the Board and demonstrate at a public hearing how staff will be trained to comply with the rule. The County requires an Alcoholic Beverage Delivery Form be completed for every delivery and maintained for a period of time (although that period of time is one of the rule changes pending).

In Howard County, similarly, licensees must appear before the Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board for their letter of authorization from the Board to make deliveries. Delivery must be “made from the licensed premises by the retail license holder or an employee of the retail license holder” (.. again, parroting the state law). A delivery log must be kept that documents all retail deliveries in a manner similar to keg registration requirements.

Again, the rules vary between local jurisdictions in Maryland, but in each instance a licensee must obtain liquor board authorization in advance of making deliveries.

Local boards are also handling ordering through a third party differently. Despite the apparent limitation in state law, among the fastest growing businesses in this sector are those accepting orders by phone app and delivery by ..?

We first posted Delivery will Change the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in 2018 and we will follow up with more and additional posts on the all but explosive business opportunities of delivery.

It was recently widely reported that online alcohol delivery sales grew over 32% last year, increasing at an average rate of just about 3% month over month. None of those deliveries were by robot; not yet .. But, if you are not delivering alcohol to your customer, your competitor will.

On December 20, 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law and among its most discussed provisions are those removing hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

The Secretary of Agriculture and the respective USDA agencies are working to implement the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill as expeditiously as possible. To allow for public input and ensure transparency, USDA determined to hear from stakeholders regarding their priorities, concerns, and requests.

The USDA’s Specialty Crops Program is conducting a listening session (by webinar) to solicit public comments on the sections of the 2018 USDA Farm Bill relative to multiple sections dealing with industrial hemp.

The listening session will be on March 13, 2019, and will begin at 12:00 pm EST and conclude by 3:00 pm.

USDA is drafting a regulation that will provide details on sampling procedures, testing requirements, licensing, compliance and other procedures that production facilities and overseeing agencies need to employ to receive a license from USDA. The 2018 Farm Bill requires each plan to include:

a practice to maintain relevant information regarding land on which hemp is produced in the State or territory of the Indian tribe, including a legal description of the land, for a period of not less than 3 calendar years;

a procedure for testing, using postdecarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration levels of hemp produced in the State or territory of the Indian tribe;

a procedure for the effective disposal of plants, whether growing or not, that are produced in violation of this subtitle; and products derived from those plants;

a procedure to comply with the enforcement procedures under subsection (e) of the Farm Bill;

a procedure for conducting annual inspections of, at a minimum, a random sample of hemp producers to verify that hemp is not produced in violation of this subtitle; and more.

You must register by March 11, 2019, to speak during the listening session and to provide oral comments during the listening session. Register in advance at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_L2G9K7cXTkayQ2O1_0AP0g

The 2018 Farm Bill is remarkable because by removing hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act it creates opportunities for hemp and its derived products, including hemp CBD oil.

DISCLAIMER: “Federal and state laws [should] be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use.” – Richard M. Nixon, 1972. Despite that statement, be aware that possessing, using, distributing and selling marijuana are all federal crimes and may be state crimes. Beyond this disclaimer this blog post is not intended to give you criminal law advice or for that matter any legal advice.

Maryland only this past year repealed provisions of law applicable in specified counties that made it a criminal offense to knowingly selling or providing an alcoholic beverage to an individual with an intellectual disability or to an individual if a family member or guardian has given written notice to the license holder that the person is of an unsound mind.

It is difficult to understand how in modern times in Allegany, Carroll, Charles, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, and Washington counties, an alcoholic beverages license holder or an employee of a license holder may not knowingly sell or provide an alcoholic beverage to: a habitual drunkard; an individual with an intellectual disability; or an individual if a family member or guardian has given written notice to the license holder or employee of the license holder not to sell or provide an alcoholic beverage to the individual because of the individual’s physical condition, intemperate habits, or unsound mind.

Generally, “knowingly” means the knowledge a reasonable individual would have under ordinary circumstances based on the habits, appearance, or personal reputation of an individual.

A violation was a misdemeanor.

Not only was the criminalization of serving someone with a disability a violation of the American with Disabilities Act, but also a violation of the U.S. Constitution and Maryland Declaration of Rights.

Senate Bill 461 passed the Senate and House of Delegates unanimously and with the Governor’s signature the bill took effect July 1, 2018.