A recent study commissioned by a statewide advocacy group found selling beer and wine in chain stores could result in significant revenue for Maryland.
The study concluded that opening up wine and beer sales in chain stores, such as convenience stores and groceries, would generate $72 million in upfront licensing fees for the state.
The issue of alcohol sales in chain stores became a major topic in nearby Columbia last summer when the husband of the president of Wegmans attempted to open a 10,000 square foot liquor store on the second floor of the new grocery store.
The Howard County Beverage Board voted down that proposal after its members agreed it would violate state law and harm local businesses.
Currently, Maryland is only one of four states in the country that does not allow beer sales in chain stores, and one of 13 that does not allow wine sales.
Sage wrote that opening up sales of beer and wine to chain stores would cause about a 1.5 percent decline in wine and beer sales at current liquor stores.
"We were surprised by the magnitude of impact and reassured that existing retail licensees would continue in business with little effect," said Adam Borden, president of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, in a statement.
"Here's what I would say," said Eric Stein, owner of Decanter Fine Wines in the Hickory Ridge Village Center. "Would you rather buy [beer and wine] from someone out-of-state or from someone in-state who employs local people?"
Stein said he currently employs 14 people at his liquor store, which is a short walk from a Giant grocery store. He said if he loses any significant amount of beer and wine sales, he'd probably go out of business.
The Sage study also references a Food Marketing Institute (FMI) study that found 22 of the 34 states and the District of Columbia that allow the sale of wine in grocery stores actually saw an increase in the number of liquor stores. FMI is an organization whose members operate chain grocery stores and pharmacies.
A Cornell University study examined the implications of introducing wine into New York state grocery stores and found that the policy change would benefit government revenues and out-of-state wineries, but wine sales at current liquor stores would fall 17 to 32 percent.
Right now, it's doubtful wine and beer sales will become a reality in Maryland sometime soon, according to Pat Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.
Donoho told the Anne Arundel County Times that his group has not take a position on the issue and will not likely bring it up in the next legislative session.
After the liquor store inside the Columbia Wegmans was defeated, Borden told Patch, "I think it would require a lot more consumer involvement on this issue and more coordinated effort from the retail community."
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