Liquor store owners seek easing of sign restrictions

March 20, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Liquor store owners who say they've chafed under three years of enforcement of laws that prohibit banners proclaiming sales are asking the county for relief.

A bill sponsored by Councilman George F. Bachman that comes before the council tonight for a public hearing would allow advertising signs in the windows of retail operations, including liquor and package goods stores and supermarkets.

Such signs could not take up more than 30 percent of a window. Establishments without windows would be permitted to place poster boxes on their outside walls.

The sign bill originally was part of a controversial omnibus zoning bill that was voted down by the previous council last year.

Members of the Anne Arundel County Licensed Beverage Association, which represents liquor store owners, asked Mr. Bachman to salvage the sign portion of the bill and introduce it separately. Cliff R. Phelps, a past president and legislative committee chairman of the association, said his organization negotiated with the county's planning and zoning department for a year to write the bill's sign provisions.

The need for the sign bill arose after then-County Executive Robert R. Neall directed county inspectors to begin strictly enforcing the county's mostly ignored sign laws in November 1991.

Since then, most liquor stores have been unable to advertise sales on signs outside their stores.

"I have a big store, and it's right on Mountain Road near Lake Shore, and I haven't had a sign out there for three years now because I refuse to violate the law," Mr. Phelps said. "My liquor sales have really suffered in the last three years. It has really depressed my sales volume.

"People who are willing to violate the law make it an uneven playing field," he said. "They can put out sale signs in flagrant violation of the law and I guess they're getting customers that I'm losing."

Mr. Bachman agreed that something needed to be done.

"The ones who were law-abiding were more or less being penalized for abiding by the law while their competitors were putting all kinds of signs out," Mr. Bachman said. "[Store owners] came to me and said, 'George, we've been waiting for almost three years for some type of relief from the county.' "

The council meeting is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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