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Montgomery County Launches Review Of Liquor Laws

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Should Montgomery County change the way it regulates liquor?
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Should Montgomery County change the way it regulates liquor?

In Maryland, Montgomery County in launching a study of its strict liquor control policies, which a top state official said should be ended.

The County council's office of legislative oversight releases reports on county agencies, and this week they released the topics they will tackle in the coming year, which includes the liquor control department and its policies.

All liquor stores in Montgomery County are owned and operated by the government, while beer and wine can be sold by private stores. Maryland comptroller Peter Franchot believes the county should end liquor control, believing it will spur growth in the restaurant industry and make it easier for customers to shop for booze.

County councilman Roger Berliner doesn't want to go that far, but does believe the sale of liquor should open up some. He likes what Pennsylvania - a liquor control state - has done: allow beer and wine to be sold at government-owned kiosks in supermarkets.

"But they are unto themselves in a supermarket. So maybe you could attract a higher quality supermarket if they knew they could have a liquor store within it, but self-contained," Berliner says.

The end of liquor control is very unlikely despite the comptroller's words. Councilman Marc Elrich explains why: "We get to do a lot of good things with the money that gets raised. To be able to fund bonds based on revenue sources instead of the faith and credit of the county is a big deal. It liberates us to be able to fund more money for schools and other things."

The report is also expected to look at whether bars and restaurants are better served buying their liquor from the county or private vendors.

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