High-powered lobbying threatens bill to ban liquor advertising on billboards

April 02, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

A bill that would ban liquor advertising from billboards and posters in city neighborhoods ran into sharp opposition from liquor and billboard industry lobbyists during a House of Delegates committee hearing yesterday.

Bruce C. Bereano, one of Annapolis' most powerful lobbyists, told the House Economic Matters Committee, "Liquor is a legal product entitled to be advertised . . . the precedence of this legislation would be profound."

Mr. Bereano represents Penn Advertising of Baltimore, which has 820 billboards in the city -- 76 with liquor ads. The company said it would lose $2 million in advertising revenue if the bill becomes law.

Mr. Bereano's testimony was followed by lobbyists for the Wine and Liquor Wholesalers of Maryland, Anheuser Busch, the Maryland State Licensing and Beverage Association, and the Advertising Association of Baltimore.

Additional testimony opposing the bill came from the state's top union leader, Ed Mohler, president of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO, who said union members would lose their jobs at Penn Advertising if the bill passes and the company loses its liquor advertising.

The bill, initiated by the City Wide Liquor Coalition -- a group of community and church leaders -- and sponsored by Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, D-Baltimore, has already passed the Senate but faces an uphill battle in the House Economic Matters Committee, which is expected to vote on the legislation today.

Bev Thomas, chairwoman of the City Wide Liquor Coalition, told the committee that passage of the bill would "bring a sense of dignity back to our city" and erase the "visible amount of pollution our children are forced to see."

Del. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, the committee's vice chairman and a supporter of the bill, said, "I've gotten more calls from everyday people in favor of this bill than any other issue. People are saying we want to save our children [from alcohol]."

Noting that Mr. Bereano and other lobbyists have been working hard to kill the bill, Mr. Cummings gave it "a 50-50 chance" of passing today.

The bill would make it illegal to display liquor ads on billboards and walls in the city, except at Pimlico Race Course, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium. It would not ban liquor ads displayed on buses and taxis because they are capable of crossing the city line.

The coalition and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association are the chief proponents of the bill.

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