ALCOHOL AND CATERING DON'T MIX -- at least not in a bill heard by Anne Arundel County's state delegates Friday.
The bill would allow caterers to serve alcoholic beverages as well as food at their clients' events, a practice that is already common, said Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale.
"We all do this," said Wagner, a Glen Burnie caterer and the bill's chief sponsor. "We've all been doing this for years. But there is no law to regulate me. There is no one to make sure I'm not serving minors. No one to keep me from serving for 24 hours."
The Senate passed the bill unanimously Thursday, but members of the county's House delegation complained that the bill is poorly drafted, would be nearly impossible to enforce and could open new avenues for abuse.
"Abill is needed," said Delegate Victor Sulin, D-Severn. "First of all, we have a practice that needs some kind of regulation. Second, I don't understand why we're reluctant to help small businesses. These are basically cottage industries. I support that 100 percent."
But, after hearing testimony Friday, Sulin and others said they can't support the bill's present language. And, with only one week remaining inthe 90-day session, they said they don't have time to salvage the bill this year.
The House -- which rejected similar legislation the last two years -- will vote tomorrow.
"I'm surprised to hear so many people come right out and say they are breaking the law," said Delegate Elizabeth S. Smith, R-Davidsonville. "I'm not sure I like the idea behind this bill. You don't pass other laws just for the convenience of people breaking it."
A Linthicum caterer, a county liquor board chairman and the state Restaurant Association supported the bill, which would create a special caterer's liquor license.
The Licensed Beverage Association, which represents liquor store and tavern owners, opposed the bill. They said it would allow anyone calling himself a caterer to buy alcohol wholesale and sell it retail. And that could undermine their businesses, they said.
Jay Schwartz, a lobbyist for the package goods stores, said the liquor laws would be unenforceable unless the license is tied to a banquet hall, hotel or restaurant.
Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville, a liquor board member until 1981, agreed, saying enforcement would be "a nightmare."
Tom Riggin, chairman of the Board of License Commissioners, said the liquorboard would react to citizen complaints.
"There are too many questions and we're not going to answer them all in the time we have left," said Delegate Charles W. Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach. "This one'sgot to go to summer study."