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.