Liquor board increases number of alcohol sites at Merriweather

It also OKs hard liquor for VIP area

police object

March 09, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

It will be a lot easier to buy an alcoholic drink at Columbia's Merriweather Post Pavilion this summer, despite objections from Howard County police and County Council Chairwoman Mary C. Lorsung, liquor board members said yesterday.

The County Council, acting as the liquor board, approved an increase from 64 to 90 alcohol stations and the purchase of hard liquor in the new VIP seating area.

The board also approved the sale of beer in plastic, wide-mouth bottles.

Ogden Food Services Corp., the refreshment concessionaire for 19 years at Merriweather, wants to eliminate long lines during short intermissions, said Jean Parker, general manager of the 33-year-old pavilion.

The more portable stands and sales clerks the pavilion has, the shorter the lines for patrons, Parker said. The changes are part of a $750,000 face lift of the pavilion.

"There's such a limited time, especially at a concert. You don't want to make people stay in line for 20 minutes," Parker said.

The intent, she said, is to bring Merriweather in line with other entertainment venues, where the ratio of points of sale to customers is one per 100, rather than the one per 150 to 250 at Merriweather.

"The easier it is to get alcohol, it just makes it easier for people to overindulge," said county police Maj. Mark L. Paterni. "A percentage of them may cause problems."

Paterni said the department is worried that people could throw the plastic beer bottles and that police may have to assign additional officers to monitor the crowd because more liquor will be available.

Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat whose district includes the pavilion, cast the lone vote against the changes.

"We're always concerned about people drinking too much. The real big concern is folks getting in their cars," she said. "Selling liquor is very different than selling cotton candy or pretzels."

Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, liquor board chairman and an Ellicott City Republican who voted to allow the change at the hearing Feb. 28, said the ratio argument convinced him that the pavilion needed the change "to be competitive."

The liquor board, voting with member C. Vernon Gray absent, approved the changes after the hearing, several members said, though the written decision has not been issued.

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