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POLL: Should Maryland Allow Alcohol Sales in Grocery Stores?

The proposed liquor store in Wegmans has sparked the debate.

The inside the new Columbia Wegmans has reignited the debate on whether wine, beer and liquor should be sold in Maryland grocery and convenience stores.

In an expansive article on Saturday, the Baltimore Sun examined how multiple grocery stores are trying to find ways around rules that generally ban chain grocery stores from selling wine, beer and liquor. (There are some exceptions, such as an Eastern Shore Giant location that has a license that has been grandfathered.)

Adam Borden, the president of Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, said the bans are antiquated.

“Our culture has evolved,” said Borden. “It used to be one where temperance and orderly tax collections were our most paramount concerns. Today, consumers are bridling with restrictions that were in place decades ago because they stifle greater selection and better pricing.”

In order to be within liquor license rules, the proposed liquor store for Wegmans would be 10 percent owned and managed on a day-to-day basis by Ralph Michael Smith, a lawyer who lives in Ellicott City.

IAD LLC would own the other 90 percent of the store. IAD is a Delaware holding company owned by Christopher O’Donnell, the husband of Colleen Wegman, the president of Wegmans. Although O’Donnell is connected to Wegmans through his wife, he is technically independent from the chain grocery store.

In the Sun article, Smith said that O’Donnell has a dozen or so other start-up ventures that he runs independently. He said nobody in Wegmans owns anything in those ventures and “I guess (people) aren’t used to couples having two high-powered careers,” according to the Sun.

At the liquor board hearing on May 1, local about Smith being a front for Wegmans.

Amran Pasha, who owns a gas station in Columbia, complained that if Smith gets a license, then other large retailers would emulate the process to get their own stores.

“They’re not allowed to have a liquor store, so they’ve figured out a way to do it,” said Pasha. “The next thing we have is Giant doing the same thing… that means the end of small business in Columbia.” 

At the hearing, only one Howard County resident came out in support of the proposal, Judy George of Laurel.

She said, “With the antiquated laws in Maryland, it’s really hard to find great wines and beers.”

She said she often goes to Corridor in Prince George’s County to find particular wines she’s looking for, but would prefer to spend her money in Howard County. 

Eric Stein, owner of Decanter Fine Wines and Spirits in Hickory Ridge, said after the hearing, "The average person doesn't care that much about alcohol sales. But the people involved in the industry want others to follow the rules... If the public wants to change the rules, there should be an outcry to do so."

What do you think? Should Maryland allow beer, wine and liquor sales at chain grocery stores?

Steve Mitchell May 09, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Let the Free State be free! The wine/beer/liquor lobby has been too powerful for too long in Maryland. Give consumers a break for a change and let grocery stores at least sell beer and wine. I'll still go to Corridor to buy my booze.
Tom May 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
News flash!!! For all you who think this will "destroy" local retail stores... Do you know how many states, allow the sale of Beer & Wine in grocery, big box stores, etc?? (most even sell allow the sale of liquor, the more generic spirits - Vodka, Rum, Gin.. you wont find a fine Single Malt Scotch, mind you), YET.. these same states still have many profitable independently owned licquor stores. Well the answer is 43, but seriously... look it up, Maryland is in the minority of 7 states that ONLY have liqour stores as a source to buy beer, wine, etc. SO... I have heard people say it will "Definitley", or "essintially", put them out of biz? Look up the stats, before making such statements. Or are you typing just to type?
commentmaker4 May 31, 2012 at 02:17 PM
My local liquor store is wonderful. But letting grocery stores sell low priced wines and popular beer(not IPA's) won't hurt them very much. I'll still go to my local to buy the nicer wines and beer. MD needs the convenience for it's busy folks. Just let the liquor stores sell the better quality hooch.
Elle March 23, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Unless its changed, I know that the Giant in Silver Spring sells beer and wine already. I don't care if the come to grocery stores or not because we're so saturated with liquor stores. I can count 6 within a mile from me in all directions and then some. lol
Steve Mitchell March 23, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Get with the times Maryland! Stand up to the liquor lobby for a change and do something for the citizens. The liquor stores will still do just fine.

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