Businesses call for a change to Wicomico County’s liquor laws
WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Following this year’s National Folk Festival and the stir caused by a letter from County Executive Bob Culver regarding Article 2B and county liquor laws, calls are being made for a change to Wicomico County’s liquor laws from local businesses. As of now, these businesses must buy their liquor through the county only.
We spoke with almost a dozen businesses, all of whom are clamoring for the laws to be changed. They say it would lead to cuts in costs, cuts down on time because businesses now have to personally pick up their liquor, and the middle man would be cut out.
“We don’t see promotional items, we don’t see the deals passed on to us because we’re not viewed as a customer in Wicomico County,” said the owner of The Brick Room, Alexander Scott. “If we’re able to buy from distributors, we’re able to cut down on our costs, we’re able to engage in deals, we’re able to bring new special products that a lot of other areas are going to get.”
These business owners have watched as in recent years, Worcester County changed their own liquor laws.
“They talk about how competitive the pricing has gotten because they can not only purchase directly from the supplier, but they also have the opportunity to purchase from the county if they need to. And it’s really opened up the doors for competitiveness, fair pricing, and equal opportunity for everybody,” said Jeremy Norton, the owner of Roadie Joe’s.
According to budget records, Wicomico County profits roughly $140,000 a year from these laws.
We spoke with county officials who say the laws have remained in place because it controls the distribution of liquor in the county, it’s well ingrained in the entire restaurant and liquor sales system, and there’s never been enough appetite to change it.
Of course, the revenue is also a factor.
But just an hour before our team arrived at The Brick Room for a scheduled interview, an inspector from the Liquor Board arrived to inspect products and invoices, all of which were confirmed to have come directly from the Wicomico County liquor dispensary.
Scott says that business owners are afraid to speak out on record and upset the status quo, because they do not want to get into trouble.
Another county source we spoke with says the county would not be as likely to change their laws considering the loss of revenue along with the looming rise in minimum wage and the possibility of a recession.
The county profits about $140,000 from these laws, that’s out of a $145 million budget for fiscal year 2020.
We reached out to the Board of License Commissioners who tell us they have no officials position on this issue. We also reached out to the county liquor control board who has not returned our call.