Cumberland Times-News

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October 26, 2013

Liquor regulations are being updated

Additions close loopholes, promote fairness

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County’s liquor regulations are being updated for the first time since the 1990s, said Michael W. Griffith, chairman of the county Board of License Commissioners. The update is in order to close loopholes and promote fairness across the board, among other reasons.

“Most of it is pretty much common sense,” said Griffith. The board reviewed the existing regulations and discussed the need for updates and new regulations based on their experiences over the years. “There were a couple of gray areas ... we’re doing this to help the licensees,” Griffith said, by making the rules clearer and more specific.

While some of the proposed regulations are amendments to existing ones, most are new, Griffith said, and fill one double-spaced typed page.

Most licensees seem supportive of the proposals, Griffith said.

Among the requirements in the proposals would be a full menu for establishments licensed to make Sunday sales. “It can’t just be pretzels and peanuts,” Griffith said.

Bartenders would also be specifically prohibited from drinking on the job. That’s important because bartenders have been trained to spot patrons who have had too much and cut those people off from further consumption. A bartender who has been drinking may not have the best judgment about such matters, Griffith explained. “Most proprietors don’t want their bartenders drinking,” Griffith said. Assistant County Attorney Barry Levine helped prepare the proposed regulations, Griffith said.

The proposed regulations would require retailers to purchase beverages and spirits from wholesalers only, Griffith said.

Many of the changes are directed toward private clubs and similar organizations. One proposed regulation will require private clubs to have a sign-in book for guests. After three visits the guest will be required to become a member of the club.

“Some clubs have an open door policy ... that’s not fair to club members and other establishments,” Griffith said. Sometimes, club members have complained they can’t get a seat at the bar because of the number of guests present, Griffith said. “Times are tough and money is tight, so this regulation is important for fairness, since clubs often offer significant discounts on drinks. The liquor board also regulates restaurants and taverns.

“We’ve had that forever (a sign-in book) ... after the third one you’re supposed to join,” said Butch Corley, president of the Goodfellowship Club.

The liquor board has scheduled the first reading of

the proposed regulations for Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. at the county office building on Kelly Road. Copies of the proposed regulations are available and comments will be received, written or verbal, up to that date.

The three-member board is appointed by the governor and changes to county liquor regulations do not require approval of county commissioners. The board is charged with enforcing section 2B of the Maryland Code.

Griffith said he hopes the updates will be in place by the beginning of 2014 and a new regulation book will be available to all licensees at that time.

The board has two inspectors and and office administrator, Griffith said. The board regulates about 165 licensees in the county.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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