Tonight they'll revel

Sunday they stocked up

Some get a jump on New Year's Eve sundries

December 31, 2007|By James Drew | James Drew,Sun reporter

Martin B. King strode into Wells Discount Liquors on a mission yesterday.

"Two cases of Charles de Fere," King told a clerk.

"Coming right up," replied the clerk, who used the intercom to relay the order of French sparkling wine that sells for $10 a bottle.

King said he and his wife expect to host 20 to 40 friends and relatives for brunch on New Year's Day. They've done it for the past few years, and it's becoming a tradition, he said.

Wells, at 6310 York Road, was prepared for the day before New Year's Eve - a Sunday spurned by procrastinators and embraced by many in search of celebratory alcohol who are working part or all of today.

King, an attorney, said he will be off about 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. today.

"I really want to go home and relax for a few hours and then go to my brother's house to celebrate. I'm trying to avoid being in the stores and the malls," he said.

Wells was open yesterday because it purchased a special license from Baltimore City to sell beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day.

When New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday, it's an especially valuable license, said Michael D. Hyatt, the store's managing partner.

But even yesterday, there was a gathering of customers outside the door as employees prepared to open the store at 1 p.m.

"Very few stores are open, unless you are attached to a restaurant," Hyatt said. Liquor establishments with seven-day tavern licenses were also open.

The Crackpot restaurant, which has an adjacent liquor store and is located in the Ravenwood Shopping Center in Baltimore County, was also selling lots of bubbly yesterday.

"We sell most of our champagne on New Year's Eve because everything is cold and we're open later than most places," said Crackpot Discount Liquors manager Joanne Farinetti.

Wayne S. Dick bought a box of white wine. He also picked up a carryout menu from the restaurant for dinner tonight.

"My wife and I will have a glass of wine and watch the ball drop," said Dick, who owns an ice cream store in Owings Mills.

Not everyone thinks giving people the option of buying alcohol on Sundays is a good idea.

At Wells, Hyatt stood near the entrance as his co-workers prepared to open the store. At 12:52 p.m., a woman walked past the portable sign in front of the store that read "We open at 1 p.m.," stood in front of the sign in the window, "Open Sunday 1-6 p.m.," and then maneuvered around the chain link fence at the entrance and tried to open the locked door.

Hyatt told her he couldn't open the store until 1 p.m.

The woman, who would not give her name, said she disagreed with laws that allow alcohol sales on Sunday.

"People have enough time to shop," she said.

Paul Stumpf said he already had shopped for New Year's Eve, when he expects to sip champagne.

Yesterday, he was looking for a bottle of port to go with dessert on New Year's Day.

A 61-year-old paralegal, Stumpf had researched the topic on the Internet. In the store, he examined bottles of port from France, Australia and Portugal.

"I had a particular niche to fill," said Stumpf.

Most people interviewed yesterday said they were trying to avoid shopping for alcohol on New Year's Eve.

John G. Carr, 36, wheeled a small shopping cart through the 10,000-square-foot store.

He was buying champagne, Kahlua, rum for strawberry daiquiris and beer for a party.

"I need some last-minute stuff for New Year's Eve," said Carr, a computer network analyst who lives in Woodberry.

"I usually don't shop for liquor much, so I'm a rookie," he said.

Hyatt has braced for what he and his co-workers will confront today. "Chaos, controlled chaos; a lot of people wait for the last minute.

"This is probably one of the most recession-proof businesses out there, along with funeral homes. No matter what happens, good or bad, people will celebrate," he added.

james.drew@baltsun.com

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