Maryland liquor license

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.

While it is difficult to comprehend what new liquor licensing laws could possibly be enacted in Maryland after the legislature passed the largest bill in Maryland history, only 2 years ago in 2016, some 3,180 pages long, re-codifying the alcoholic beverage laws, this is review of just that ..

At the close of the just concluded 438th session of the Maryland General Assembly on April 9, 2018, 1,269 Senate bills and 1,832 House bills were introduced of which 889 bills were enacted, including more than a few that will provide business opportunities for those engaging in the business of alcoholic beverages.

Among the significant issues involving alcoholic beverages are:

Comptroller’s Office

In Maryland, alcoholic beverages manufacturers and wholesalers are regulated by the Comptroller’s Office, while alcoholic beverages retailers are regulated by local boards of license commissioners. House Bill 1316 (Ch. 25) is largely seen as a rebuke to the Comptroller for his legislative activism on craft breweries when it establishes a Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation in the State. The 21-member task force, whose membership includes legislators, alcohol industry representatives, law enforcement representatives, and health care professionals, must examine whether the Comptroller’s Office is the most appropriate agency to ensure the safety and welfare of Maryland residents, or whether those tasks should be assigned to another State agency or to one created specifically to carry out those tasks.


A Class 4 limited winery license, issued by the Comptroller, authorizes the sale and sampling of wine and pomace brandy produced by the license holder for consumption. Among other things, a license holder may distill and bottle up to 1,900 gallons of pomace brandy made from available Maryland agricultural products. House Bill 972 (passed) establishes stricter requirements for a business to obtain a Class 4 limited winery license. Specifically, the bill changes the broad requirement that a licensee use Maryland agricultural products to produce wine and pomace brandy to instead require the licensee to own or have under contract at least 20 acres of grapes or other fruit in cultivation in the State for use in the production of wine or ensure at least 51% of the ingredients used in alcoholic beverages production are grown in the State. The Secretary of Agriculture each year may grant a one-year exemption to an applicant from the 51% requirement. The bill will not apply until May 1, 2022, to any person who holds a Class 4 license on or before June 30, 2018.

Class 6 Limited Wine Wholesaler’s License

A holder of a Class 4 limited winery license whose winery produces no more than 27,500 gallons of its own wine annually may obtain a Class 6 limited wine wholesaler’s license. The Class 6 license allows the winery to sell and deliver its own wine produced at the licensed premises to a retailer or other person authorized to acquire the wine; however, a license holder may not sell the wine to another wholesaler. House Bill 896 (passed) increases the annual amount of wine that can be produced, sold, and delivered by the holder of a Class 4 limited winery license that also has a Class 6 limited wine wholesaler’s license from 27,500 gallons to 35,000 gallons. The bill also authorizes a Class 6 license holder to sell its wine to a holder of a wholesaler’s license.


There are two types of manufacturer’s license issued in the State that authorize the production of liquor. A Class 1 distillery license authorizes the establishment and operation of a plant for distilling brandy, rum, whiskey, alcohol, and neutral spirits at the location described in the license. Similarly, a Class 9 limited distillery license, which may be issued to a holder of certain Class B or D beer, wine, and liquor licenses, authorizes the license holder to distill, rectify, bottle, or sell up to 100,000 gallons of the same types of alcoholic beverages; however, the Class 9 license holder may sell at retail on the premises of the Class D or Class B license only 15,500 gallons of liquor each year. Senate Bill 384 (passed) increases the annual amount of liquor that may be sold at retail under a Class 9 limited distillery license to 31,000 gallons.

Manufacturer Off-site Permits

The Harford County Farm Fair is an annual event celebrating Harford County’s agricultural heritage and features rides, farm animals, and food, among other attractions. House Bill 270 (passed) allows the holder of a brewery off-site permit or a winery off-site permit to use the permit to sell and provide samples of beer or wine at this fair.

Retail Sales of Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses from Multiple Jurisdictions

A Class B beer, wine, and liquor license allows a restaurant, hotel, or motel to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on- and/or off-premises, depending on the license. State law generally limits the number of alcoholic beverages licenses that may be issued to a single license holder to one; however, there are exceptions in some jurisdictions. For example, with certain specified requirements, Montgomery County authorizes a single license holder to obtain up to 10 Class B beer, wine, and liquor licenses. House Bill 1003 (passed) authorizes a single individual to hold multiple Class B beer, wine, and liquor licenses or equivalent licenses issued by different local licensing boards for restaurants, hotels, or motels. The number of licenses that a single individual may hold is only limited by the cap imposed by each local licensing board on the licenses that the board issues. The licenses may be issued for use by the license holder, a partnership, a corporation, an unincorporated association, or a limited liability company.Continue Reading Alcoholic Beverages in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session