Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers last week urged thecounty's General Assembly delegation to withdraw a bill that would allow liquor stores to sponsor wine-tasting events.
"This is a drinking and driving bill," said Wayne Kruhm, a member of the MADD lobby."It's sending the wrong message."
Kruhm was speaking at a public hearing Thursday night on this andother bills the delegation is considering sponsoring during the spring session of the General Assembly.
He said a clause in the wine-tasting bill that says liquor-license holders may not serve more than one ounce of wine or cordial from a given brand to any one person would not be enforced.
"Nobody's going to drink just one ounce," he said. "It's like eating one potato chip."
Kruhm said that to allow commercial wine-tastings within the county would be the moral equivalent of allowing a drug dealer to work a school playground. "Give 'em a little free and it's easy to take advantage of 'em," he said.
Proponents of the bill said it would benefit consumers by enabling themto sample new or foreign wine offerings without having to make an expensive purchase.
"It's to the consumers' advantage to compare" wines by tasting them, said Edward Walter, a member of the American Wine Society. "The idea that this bill would promote drunkenness is absurd."
The bill is meant to be enabling legislation. If it passes, the County Council, sitting as the liquor board, would have to determine the criteria under which wine, cordial or beer tastings would be allowed.
In an unrelated liquor matter, Rouse Co. executive Edward A. Ely called on the delegation to support a bill allowing county restaurant owners to hold more than one liquor license.
Ely said current law prevents a restaurant owner from opening a second restaurant elsewhere in the county if alcoholic beverages are to be served therealso.
Restaurant chains that operate several different types of restaurants under different names often choose not to come here because they can bring in only one restaurant, Ely said.
He said a chainthat recently opened a restaurant employing more than 125 people in Columbia was prevented from opening a different restaurant. The county's "antiquated liquor laws" are costing the county millions of dollars in revenue, Ely said.
Delegate Robert H. Kittleman, R-14B, toldEly that although Baltimore County and Baltimore City permit a restaurant owner to hold more than one liquor license, the General Assembly is not willing to allow the practice here. He told Ely a Carroll County bill identical to the Howard bill couldn't get out of its committee last year.
The bill would apply only to restaurants that sell more food than liquor.
The delegation will vote Nov. 20 on whetherto bring these and 12 other bills before the General Assembly in January.
Among the 12 bills also being considered is legislation thatwould require developers seeking a zoning change to disclose campaign contributions made to zoning board members. Another proposal would impose on developers a building excise tax deemed an essential part of the county's adequate facilities legislation.
Other bills would grant a family day-care exemption in residential neighborhoods, provide state grants for historic buildings, authorize the community college to borrow at tax-exempt rates, and prohibit "obscene live performances" in places where people "have paid a consideration of any type whatsoever to observe" them.