Sizzler Restaurant, on Route 140 in Westminster, wants to sell beer and wine, but the county liquor board must decide whether the restaurant is a chain store, and thus prohibited by county law from obtaining a liquor license.
The board heard testimony at a hearing yesterday from Sizzler's owners. Board Chairman Earle H. Brewer said a written decision would be issued within 30 days.
After the hearing, however, Brewer said there is "a really good possibility" that the board will postpone a decision until after a court case involving Pizza Hut is settled.
The county has six Pizza Hut restaurants, three with liquor licenses. A fourth has applied for a license.
In November 1989, the county filed a lawsuit in CarrollCircuit Court asking the court to interpret the law. A hearing scheduled in May was postponed, and a new date has not been set.
Countyliquor law prohibits chain stores, supermarkets and discount houses from obtaining liquor licenses.
An attorney for Sizzler's owners, Walter A. Fitzgerald of Rockville, Montgomery County, and Richard Murray of Westminster, said the law was written to prohibit supermarketsand discount stores from selling alcohol.
If the legislature had meant to prohibit chain restaurants from obtaining liquor licenses, it would have specifically written that, said Linda C. Carter, an attorney based in Riverdale, Prince George's County.
Brewer said he could understand how the law could be interpreted to include certain restaurants as chain stores.
Six Sizzler restaurants elsewhere in Maryland have liquor licenses, Carter said, including one in Frederick that Fitzgerald owns.
The Sizzler in Westminster was converted from a Ponderosa restaurant about five years ago, Fitzgerald said. He has owned it since September 1989. Murray, a construction foreman, owns10 percent of the business.
The restaurant seats about 160 peopleand serves an average of 350 customers a day, but it is not profitable, he said. After obtaining a liquor license at his Sizzler in Frederick, revenue increased about 10 percent, he said.
The Frederick restaurant has had a liquor license for about 1 1/2 years. Alcohol sales are about 1 percent of total sales, he said.
Sizzler serves steak, chicken and fish and has a buffet that includes Italian, Orientaland Mexican dishes, plus salads, breads and desserts.
No one appeared at the hearing to oppose the liquor license.
In other business yesterday, the liquor board heard testimony that two Mount Airy liquor stores sold a 20-year-old Maryland State Police cadet beer on May24.
Trooper Edward K. Muller said police had received complaints that minors were being sold alcohol in a Mount Airy liquor store. Thecadet was sent to five area stores, including one in Frederick County, to try to buy beer.
He was successful at Ridgeside Spirits at 1511 Ridgeside Drive and the Olive Leaf Cafe in the Twin Arch ShoppingCenter. Owners of both places admitted they sold the cadet beer, butsaid it was the first time they had been in violation of liquor laws.
The maximum penalty for the offense is a fine of up to $2,000 and suspension of the liquor license.
The board will issue written decisions on the charges within 30 days.