Bill expanding liquor licenses for franchise restaurants dies Gary favored move as economic tool

March 22, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County's General Assembly delegation has defeated a measure that would have allowed franchise restaurants more than one liquor license within county lines, a setback for County Executive John G. Gary's economic development agenda.

The unanimous vote Wednesday evening postpones for at least a year action on the bill, which would have repealed a law limiting ownership of liquor licenses. Hundreds of small-business owners opposed the measure, fearing it would usher in franchise restaurants that could siphon off customers.

"It's an unfortunate occurrence for economic development opportunities in the county," said Lisa Ritter, Mr. Gary's spokeswoman. "It's a situation where economically we need to study what will work for the business community."

Anne Arundel economic development officials have called the provision limiting licenses to one per owner a barrier to efforts to bring in chain restaurants, such as Ruby Tuesday's and Olive Garden. Both companies have considered opening second operations in the county, but have decided against it because of the one-license limit.

Under the proposal, restaurants with capital investment of more than $750,000 and parking for more than 75 cars would have been allowed to apply for a second license. The licenses would have cost $1,500 a year, the most expensive category.

Restaurants of that size employ as many as 100 workers and earn as much as $5 million to $7 million a year. Economic development officials say chains attract other businesses to neighboring areas.

Mr. Gary had met with members of the Anne Arundel License Beverage Association to deal with small-business concerns. A compromise included stipulations that second franchise restaurants with liquor licenses would open only in malls with more than 40 stores and that only 15 second licenses would be issued.

But the delegation rejected the proposals.

"I personally don't believe the county had its ducks in line," said Greg Phillips, an association member who owns Frank's Den in Glen Burnie. "Evidently the delegation just didn't think it was worth it."

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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