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.

Delivery!

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.

In the final days of 2018 the President signed into law H.R. 5317 repealing the pre-Civil War prohibition on certain alcoholic beverage manufacturing on Indian lands.

I the parlance of the early 19th century the bill repeals a prohibition on creating or continuing a distillery in Indian country for manufacturing ardent spirits, when it almost cryptically provides, “Section 2141 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 251) is repealed.”

The now repealed 1834 law was one of the Indian Trade and Intercourse Acts enacted in the 18th and 19th centuries. The law has its origins in legislation pursued by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 banning all alcohol in Indian country.

The purpose of the 19th century laws was to regulate non-Indian interaction with individual Indians and Indian tribes on Indian lands. While the operation of the Trade and Intercourse Acts has been repealed or superseded by subsequent laws, several of them, including the one prohibiting distilleries on Indian lands, remained in effect through 2018.

The Indian Trade and Intercourse Acts reserved to the United States the exclusive right to acquire Indian lands and to regulate and restrict trade with tribes.

The early 19th century acts were intended to implement and enforce the terms of Indian treaties against “obstreperous whites, [and] gradually came to embody the basic features of federal Indian policy” to preserve peace on the frontier, including by imposed restrictions on the sale, exchange, or barter of spirituous liquors to Indians in Indian country.

Section 21 of that Act provides that if any person sets up or continues a distillery for the manufacturing of ardent spirits in Indian country, the penalty shall be $1,000 and the superintendent of Indian affairs shall destroy and break up the distillery.

Most of the 1834 law remained in effect until 1953 when Congress passed the last of six Indian termination acts to eliminate historical discriminatory legislation against Indians in the United States. Under the 1953 law, the production and distribution of liquor is permitted in Indian country subject to the laws of the State in which such acts or transactions occur, and subject also to tribal ordinances approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

Nonetheless, because the 1834 law imposing express restrictions on distilleries in Indian country remained in effect, there was a question whether a tribe may lawfully construct and operate a distillery on its reservation even though it may be permitted to build and run a brewery or winery.

The 1834 law expressly prevents any tribe from hosting a distillery project on its lands. While the law may have advanced a valid public policy goal in the mid 19th century, or not, it is not compatible with the modern policy of promoting tribal self-determination and economic diversification on Native American lands where existing laws provide reasonable regulation of liquor transactions.

The bill was especially supported by the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, which plans to construct and operate a distillery and restaurant on its lands. According to the Tribe, the project, part of a larger brewery, distillery, and restaurant project, will be wholly tribally owned and operated, with net profits going to the Tribe.

Last week the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners issued a new Class B-ECF/DS alcoholic beverage license to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Despite that there were already 781 alcoholic beverages licenses issued for use in Baltimore County, this license is significant.

For those interested in inside baseball, this is an entirely new class of license. The Class B Education Conference Facility/ Dining Service beer, wine and liquor license was created by Senate Bill 1144 in the last General Assembly session authorizing the holder to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption from multiple designated outlets on the UMBC campus. So, yes, there will only be one of these licenses and it may only be issued for use on the UMBC campus. And as noted it was issued last week and alcohol flowed this past Saturday evening at the Inaugural Celebration for County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr.

While the opening of the new 172,000 square foot Event Center on the UMBC campus triggered the discussions that lead to this license, across the country, alcoholic beverages have been available to basketball fans who pay for fancy suites and premium seats, including in the Retriever Room at the UMBC venue. There has been a taboo on alcohol sales to most in attendance, in deference to the many underage college students in the bog room, but that has eroded across the country. While the NCAA is increasing the frequency of athletic events where alcohol may be sold, college campuses are also more than ever renting their venues for non traditional college uses as revenue sources.

In point of fact this Maryland bill was signed into law the same day a similar bill was signed in North Carolina allowing alcohol to be served at college sporting events.

But it is the non college athletic events that will be held in the new Event Center (.. think Harlem Globetrotters) that could only take place at a venue that sells alcoholic beverages, which events are necessary to produce the revenue required to retire the bonds that funded the building.

Which makes sense to many folks. But why was General Assembly action required? Simply put, despite that the legislature passed the largest bill in Maryland history, only 2 years ago in 2016, some 3,180 pages long, re-codifying the state alcoholic beverage laws, there was no law that authorized a license at a college campus in Baltimore County.

So, we worked with UMBC and crafted legislation modeled after the license law that exists in Prince George’s County for the University of Maryland College Park.

Historically, St. John’s College in Annapolis, the third oldest college in North America, served beer as far back as 1784. So beer on college campuses in Maryland is obviously nothing new.

And the need to seek relief in the state legislature also has application in the private sector. Some years ago we worked with a restaurant owner to create the new class of Towson Small Restaurant license in the General Assembly.

The value of liquor licenses has increased dramatically across Maryland in recent years, including because of shifting market forces that have resulted in the growth in numbers of restaurants, all of which portends the importance of a liquor license to many business justifying the time, inconvenience and expense of seeking a change in state law create a new license.

The Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore County has issued new Rules and Regulations effective September 30, 2018.

Liquor board Rules are of great import and govern the issuance of an alcoholic beverage license as well as the day to day operations of a business selling alcoholic beverages. While hyper technical in nature, the Rules have the force of law and a violation of a Rule can result in civil penalties and ultimately suspension or revocation of an alcoholic beverage license.

Maryland Annotated Code, Alcoholic Beverages Article, Section 13-207 provides, the Baltimore County Board may adopt Rules to carry out the State law, including rules regarding:

  1. the presence on a licensed premises of an individual who is not a consumer; and
  2. the issuance of a license when the actual use of the license is to be deferred until the completion of construction or alterations on the premises.

There are substantially the same enabling laws across the state although local licensing boards ultimately promulgate very different Rules from county to county.

As a purely housekeeping matter, the new Baltimore County Rules and Regulations identify the current members of the Board, including longtime chairman Charles Klein, recently appointed member Susan Green and new member Audie Jones.

In a procedural clarification, the Rules now make clear that a licensee may be subject to a fine of up to “$2,000 or suspension or revocation of their license for any violation of any of these rules.”

The change that garnered the must comment at the public hearing on the Rules is Rule 1 that now provides, “a license holder or an employee of a license holder may not sell or provide alcoholic beverages to any person who exhibits signs of intoxication or impairment, ..” Some argued this was a high bar for a server. Our concern is that the new Rule is a different standard than the state law that provides, “A license holder or an employee of the license holder may not sell or provide alcoholic beverages to an individual who, at the time of the sale or delivery, is visibly under the influence of an alcoholic beverage.” Md. Ann. Code art. AB, § 6-307

Possibly, the change that will impact the largest number of licensees was from the old Rule 5.B, “It shall be unlawful for the holder of a Class “D” license to allow any minor or minors under the age of twenty-one (21) years to be on the premises after 9:00 p.m.” has been altered to 10:00 p.m., “unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian” who is 21 years or older. That change reflects a societal change as much as anything else.

Rule 6 that limits gifts from wholesalers to licensees has been completely rewritten and now expressly allows advertising support with a value of not more than $150. Of all the changes this one may be problematic to enforce and not only have real First Amendment challenges, but also problems in enforcing in the social media age?

There was a nod to modernity in the modest revision to Rule 9 that allow delivery of alcoholic beverages where the Rule had provided only for orders placed by mail or telephone and now orders may also be placed by “email, fax, text or via an app”.

And another minor, but possibly salacious edit to the Rules in this modern era was a change to the Rule 2 prohibited practices that had in the past only prohibited female nudity and now requires that ”the male or female pubic region, anus, cleft of the buttocks, or genitals” must be clothed and not exposed to public view.

There are a dozen or so other mostly modest changes that may impact individual licensees. The new Rules are a very good cleanup of the last version. All licensees should read the new Rules.

Talbot County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, is one of only a handful of places in America that prohibits the selling or providing of alcoholic beverages on an election day during the hours when the polls are open.

The picturesque waterfront county is named for Lady Grace Talbot, the sister of Lord Baltimore and wife of Sir Robert Taylor, whose family was an owner of Sean’s in Athlone, the oldest pub in Ireland (that was purchased by Boy George in 1987). And while the founding date of Talbot County is lost to history, it existed before February 12, 1661, when then is record that a writ was issued to its sheriff.

The rural jurisdiction does not appear to have any history of election day carousing or the like.

But since the repeal of prohibition, an alcoholic beverages licensee may not sell or provide any alcoholic beverages on an election day during the hours when the polls are open in any election district or precinct where an election is being held.

A person who violates the provision is subject to a fine of between $50 and $100 for each offense. However, on the day of an election, a restaurant that holds an alcoholic beverages license may provide alcoholic beverages for consumption only on the licensed premises.

This vestige of 19th century corrupt political bosses trading votes for free booze, which seems strikingly unsuitable post Citizens United, was also the law in the City of Annapolis until the Maryland legislature repealed it for that city in 2015, after it was noticed that the statewide repeal of many years before had failed to include that capitol city.

Of note, in Allegany County, Maryland a licensee may not sell or provide any alcoholic beverages on the day of any election during the hours the polls are open if the licensed premises is used as a polling place. But that appears to be a modern compromise to allow rural polling places in retail establishments.

The economic impact, if any, of this law is not clear, but Talbot County residents do consume more than their share of alcoholic beverages. In fact, the 37,512 County residents consumed 5.89 gallons of wine each, the highest per capita consumption of any Maryland county. Residents could buy their wine before the polls open or drive to Queen Anne’s County to the north?

Apparently none of the County’s 137 liquor licenses sought to have the prohibition added to the 2015 repeal for the City of Annapolis.

 

But with election day 2018 approaching, there has been discussion led by a group of liquor licensees in Easton, the cosmopolitan County seat, about repealing the antiquated election day booze ban in the legislature next year.