Image Building at the Montgomery County Liquor Control Department
By Patricia A. Fenati, Candidate for State Delegate, District 14
An August 5th article by Jennifer Barrios in The Washington Post states that Montgomery County is planning to introduce a bill in the 2019 Maryland General Assembly to change the name of Montgomery County’s Liquor Control Department to the Beverage Services Department. Changing the name is thought to better indicate the new focus of the department and hopefully improve its image. The change in focus is the key direction of the new director of the department, Robert Dorfman, who was appointed to this position in late 2016.
I met Robert Dorfman last year and believe he is moving his department to be much more customer oriented than it had been previously. He is working hard to bring about warehouse modernization and applying retail science to county stores as well as purchasing new delivery trucks.
But still … Montgomery County is the only county in the country that, as the Barrios article stated, “directly controls the wholesale distribution of all alcohol in its borders — a vestige dating to the end of Prohibition.”
Changing the name will not change the county’s requirement that all businesses serving liquor in the county must purchase their beverages through the county, nor will it change any of the control that the department has over the Montgomery County businesses that are required to purchase liquor through that department.
The question I have is this: Why should the county operate any retail business in addition to regulating its customers?
I believe that regulations beyond basic safety, construction, environmental and zoning regulations, which inhibit the ability of businesses to operate freely are counter productive and open the possibility of corruptive practices for both the government and business such as bribery and even extortion.
About $30 million in alcohol sales revenue does add to the county’s budget. This appears to make it difficult to abolish the department. However, the cost of operating Beverage Services nee Liquor Control, includes all its stores, employees, the warehouse, delivery and accounting services. It is argued by some that the difference between revenue and cost of operating the department would approximate additional taxes generated by those in the liquor business.
It is time to put the prohibition era behind us and move into the 21stcentury in this county. Let go of the absolute control over liquor sales and services, no matter what that control is named.
Patricia A. Fenati, Candidate for State Delegate District 14