Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., residents could soon be able to apply for liquor licenses in Montgomery County.
Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill Saturday that broadens who can apply for a liquor license in the county.
Del. Tom Hucker, who drafted the bill, said current law restricts licensees to those who have lived in the county for at least two years, meaning a restaurateur who resides just outside the county lines could not open a restaurant in Montgomery and serve alcohol.
Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring said the restriction dates to 1933, when the United States lifted prohibition.
The law, he said, was likely cobbled together quickly to clamp down on alcohol sales.
“Now 80 years later, it is not working the way intended,” he said.
While the two-year residency requirement for liquor licenses is state law, Hucker said other jurisdictions in Maryland have changed the requirement as it applies to them.
As passed, Hucker’s bill allows residents of Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., to apply for a liquor license in Montgomery County. It does not guarantee anyone a license.
As originally written, Hucker’s bill would have exempted Montgomery entirely from a residency restriction on its liquor licenses, effectively allowing anyone to apply.
But that was too broad for lawmakers to support, said Del. Charles E. Barkley, chairman of the Alcohol and Beverages subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee.
Barkley (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown said his subcommittee shot down the proposal to open county liquor licenses to anyone, feeling it should be more narrow, restricted to at least Maryland residents.
So Hucker said he narrowed his bill and it was able to win a favorable report from the Economic Matters Committee and pass the House.
“No one faces the unique disadvantage Montgomery County has in direct competition with D.C. and Northern Virginia,” Hucker said.
Barkley said he still did not support the amended bill because he felt it remained too broad. He said he would rather see it limited to just Maryland residents.
The Senate is now considering the measure.