Bill would allow caterers to serve liquor on, off site Delegation approves proposal

January 29, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Carroll County catering facilities would be allowed to serve alcohol at their New Year's Eve parties and other events if the General Assembly approves a new bill this year.

The bill, sponsored by state Del. Richard C. Matthews, a Carroll County Republican, would allow caterers to provide alcohol at up to eight events a year in their own facilities.

It also would allow them to serve alcohol at off-site functions, such as in client homes and fire halls.

Mr. Matthews drew up the bill at the request of Larry Wilhelm, owner of Wilhelm Ltd. Caterers.

Mr. Wilhelm, who recently converted the Westminster Friendly Farm Restaurant into a catering facility, wanted permission to continue providing alcohol at off-site parties.

"I asked the liquor board, 'Why don't you allow caterers to pay some more for their liquor licenses and take the alcohol off premises?' " Mr. Wilhelm said.

"They told me they couldn't because of state law."

Currently, restaurant owners who serve at least two meals a day may apply for a caterer's provision on their liquor license. That addition allows them to serve alcohol at parties they cater off the restaurant premises, said Ron Lau, administrator of the Carroll County Board of License Commissioners.

"Of course, they don't have to worry about sponsoring their own events," he said. "They are in the business to do that."

However, people who only cater events cannot provide alcohol for their clients.

Families who want liquor at a wedding reception must purchase it themselves, and nonprofit groups selling tickets to a fund-raiser, such as a Lions Club bull roast, are required to apply for a one-day license, Mr. Lau said.

"Basically, this bill would allow caterers to do the same thing restaurants are doing now," he said. "[Under the current law,] if a caterer would come in and cater a bull roast and provide the alcohol, his license would be in jeopardy. . . ."

The bill was approved by the six-member Carroll County delegation Wednesday by a vote of 4-1.

Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat, voted against the proposal, and state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican, abstained.

Mr. Wilhelm said that, when he requested the bill, he was not thinking of the holiday dinners he plans on providing in the former Friendly Farm.

Typically, those events are alcohol-free, he said.

However, the new bill -- if passed -- would allow him to consider expanding the holiday list to include a New Year's Eve party, he said.

"Let's face it, serving alcohol is providing a public accommodation," Mr. Wilhelm said.

"If the possibility of a need is there, then people should be allowed to do it. If there isn't a need, then people won't do it, because it won't be successful."

"We're looking for ways to advertise our catering business by inviting the general public in so they can see our facility and expert service," he said. "I'm a firm believer that the proof is in the pudding."

Cindy Kreseski, who owns A Grand Affair in Hampstead with her husband, Larry, said, "I think it's [the bill] a great idea."

The couple, who opened the catering facility in December, had expressed interest in sponsoring parties at their site.

"It definitely would help generate business, especially for this facility, being a new one," she said.

"It would also help with the overhead."

Ms. Kreseski, who has operated a catering business out of the Sunset Restaurant for several years, said the ability to serve alcohol at off-site functions was also beneficial.

"If somebody calls you to do a wedding reception and asks for liquor, you can't do it," Ms. Kreseski said.

"Then they have to go to the liquor store and purchase all the alcohol at a higher cost to them. That's good for the liquor store, but bad for the people buying it."

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