Changes in liquor laws put off by legislators

January 22, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County's state lawmakers have put liquor law changes on hold for at least a year, saying the county's liquor board presented its package too late to be considered in the current General Assembly session.

"We have had this problem in the past with the liquor bills being late," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat from Westminster. "I, for one, am opposed to any changes in the liquor law this year."

His comments came at a public hearing yesterday on four county government bills, including one that would require county contributions to the volunteer fire department's pension plans.

Lawmakers said the liquor law proposals -- including one that would let restaurants serve beer and wine on Sundays and another that would bar drive-through windows at package stores -- should first have been considered by the county commissioners.

Other proposals would allow restaurants with liquor licenses to close one day a week, which currently is prohibited in Carroll County, and permit them to serve alcohol at a bar or counter on Sundays.

"We got our legislative package from the county on Dec. 15 and had a meeting on Dec. 21," Mr. Dixon said. "The liquor laws came faxed to us on Dec. 20, one day before the meeting."

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican from Westminster, also complained that he asked the commissioners on Jan. 12 to take a position on the liquor board proposals. His request apparently only made it to the commissioners' chief of staff, Robert A. "Max" Bair, Friday.

Mr. Bair apologized yesterday for the miscommunication.

At yesterday's hearing, Commissioner Donald I. Dell argued that lawmakers should have made room on the agenda for the liquor law proposals.

"In the past, we've left it to the liquor board to make its own presentation," Mr. Dell said. "We met with Russell Mayer [chairman of the liquor board] a week to 10 days ago and sent a memo indicating our general acceptance."

Several liquor licensees at yesterday's hearing were pleased about the decision to delay action for a year on any changes, saying the liquor board had ignored several of their requests.

Bob Contarino, of Ledo Pizza in Westminster, said he would have liked to have seen legislation letting 18-year-olds pour and sell alcohol. Under a state law that applies to Carroll County, an 18-year-old may carry alcohol to a table, but an employee must be 21 years old to pour it or to collect the money.

Earlier this month, liquor board members fined owners of the Mount Airy Pizza Hut $100 for letting an underage clerk accept payment for alcohol.

The board later suspended the fine because it was the restaurant's first violation.

"They never responded to my letter," Mr. Contarino said of his request to the liquor board. "I submitted it for a public hearing and presented my case. I thought they understood my concerns, but it wasn't included."

Delegation members said they would consider introducing a separate, emergency piece of legislation proposed by Peter Samios, owner of several liquor stores, that would allow package goods stores to sell alcohol on the Sundays before Christmas and New Year's Day. Sunday sales are prohibited now.

Mr. Samios said the owners consider the legislation crucial because Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve fall on Sunday this year. Baltimore, Howard and Frederick counties allow liquor stores to operate on the Sundays before and after Christmas.

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