Delegates in Arundel OK liquor bill

Support is first step to expanding licenses for county restaurants

March 18, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A bill that would allow franchise restaurants to expand in Anne Arundel County and chains and independent restaurants to expand into certain town centers won unanimous support from the county delegation yesterday, a critical step toward General Assembly approval.

The multiple liquor license bill, which will double the allowable number of beer, wine and liquor licenses held by restaurant chains and owners from one to two, was sent to the Economic Matters committee for review before it is introduced to the Assembly.

Because the bill affects only Anne Arundel County, and the county delegation has given its blessing, it is expected to win assembly approval.

"I was pleased the delegation reached a consensus on such a vital economic issue," said Republican Del. John R. Leopold, who along with Democratic Del. Theodore J. Sophocleus led a study group of small-business owners, franchisers and restaurateurs who helped craft the legislation.

"This morning's unanimous vote is the most important vote of all," Leopold said yesterday. "The issue of multiple licenses is so essential for the economic development of the county and to provide the community with dining choices they deserve."

This is the delegation's third attempt to pass a law allowing multiple licenses. Current law allows only one liquor license per establishment name, limiting chain restaurants such as TGI Friday's and independently owned franchises such as Ledo's Pizza to one location in the county outside Annapolis, which has separate laws.

For this reason, most of the chains that come to Anne Arundel huddle in and around Annapolis, the county's population center.

After months of meeting with the study group, Leopold, Sophocleus and Del. Mary Ann Love, a Democrat, came up with a bill that would also allow businesses to multiply in areas targeted for economic development.

These areas include the Glen Burnie, Odenton and Parole town centers, the Village at Waugh Chapel, Marley Station, Arundel Mills and Annapolis malls, the Baltimore-Washington International Airport business district and the Maryland City area along Route 198 between Route 32 and the county line.

Under the bill, business owners and chain restaurants that have a liquor license may procure a second one -- a restaurant license for beer, wine and liquor, or just beer and wine -- if the establishment is located in one of the priority areas.

The bill would allow independent franchises to obtain licenses under the owners' names, not the name of the franchise. Owners who want a second license must locate within the designated area.

"The independent [owners] have always been the backbone of our business, and we tried to protect them," Sophocleus said. "They're not going to be affected. If we thought we were going to hurt those businesses, we would've tried a different approach."

The bill must be approved by the Economic Matters Committee and the assembly by March 27 in order to go to the Senate.

Pub Date: 3/18/00

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