Plan to ban liquor sales at gas stations comes up empty because of timing glitch Word of police backing arrives after bill's defeat

December 18, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County police support a state bill to bar liquor licenses at Howard County gas stations, but local state legislators didn't know that when they killed the proposal on a 6-2 vote this week.

A letter from Police Chief Wayne Livesay didn't arrive in time to save the bill at a delegation meeting Wednesday night in Ellicott City, but sponsor Del. Shane Pendergrass says she will bring the measure back in a year.

"I don't want to see people tanked up and getting tanked," Pendergrass said she has joked to her teen-age son as she tried to explain to him why she believes gas stations shouldn't sell alcoholic beverages.

The issue produced some unusual alliances, with county liquor dealers and the police supporting a prohibition, while the Chamber of Commerce and gas station owners opposed it.

Republican Del. Robert H. Kittleman said he is philosophically opposed to more state laws regulating what local liquor and zoning laws target.

The chief's letter notes a recent study by the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board finding that about 40 percent of all liquor outlets there -- which includes grocery stores and gas stations -- sold to underage purchasers.

This year, Howard County police used cadets to test compliance with the 18-year minimum age on cigarette sales -- and eight of 15 gas stations failed the test, the letter says.

Given the variety of products sold and the often young age of both customers and employees, Livesay said, liquor sales at gas stations could be very hard to control.

Teen-age station attendants could be hard-pressed to deny beer to friends, the letter said.

The letter was unavailable to the legislators, however, because it was mailed Wednesday -- the day of the legislative delegation's vote -- to Pendergrass' Annapolis office, said police spokesman Sgt. Morris Carroll.

One Howard County station, the Exxon at 10611 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, has applied for a liquor license, county officials said, but the county liquor board denied owner Lloyd Thacker a license in June for lack of public need.

Pendergrass said she knew the police were going to support the bill and could have asked her fellow legislators to delay a vote on the bill, but that she didn't want to push them if their minds were made up.

"There's always next year," she said.

Pub Date: 12/18/98

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