Sundays in Baltimore County, even Super Bowl Sundays, are not what they could be, says business owner David Trone, operator of Beltway Fine Wine & Spirits in Towson.
Trone is hoping the hoopla over the Ravens vs. 49ers will help consumers focus on what he sees as outdated liquor laws that keep most beer and wine shops in the county closed on Sundays.
This Sunday, he says, Baltimore County residents who failed to plan ahead for Super Bowl parties could find themselves having to cross county lines to stock up on beer and wine.
"That's just not right," Trone said, adding that most people who work during the week prefer to do most of their shopping on weekends. "This isn’t the 1800s anymore. We don’t have blue laws."
Trone, who also operates a national chain of wine retail stores, says Baltimore County is simply out of step with today's consumer. Sunday sales by licensed beverage retailers are permitted in most other counties and in all 15 states outside Maryland where he runs Total Wine & More, he said.
"My stores in California are going to be open on Sunday, so supporters of the San Francisco 49ers can purchase wine, beer and spirits this Sunday," he said. "I'm a supporter of the Baltimore Ravens and my store in Towson will not be open, and that kind of ticks us off."
Even Baltimore's spot in Sunday’s ultimate football matchup in New Orleans hasn’t been enough to drum up support to propose changing current regulations. Trone says he has found no one among the Baltimore County state delegation willing to propose changing state liquor laws governing the county.
But he has been encouraged by the response of Delegate John A. Olszewski Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the delegation, who said last week the idea is worth exploring.
"It’s a change that is happening in other jurisdictions," Olszewski said.
At this point, Olszewski said he'd like to get a better sense of how licensed beverage dealers and retailers feel about such a proposal. He's looking into organizing a discussion among business owners later this month, but it's unlikely a proposal would be introduced in the legislature this session, he said.
Harry Cohen, president of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association, which represents licensed beverage dealers who operate restaurants, stores and clubs, said the sentiment to change current law is just not out there.
The existing law is fair and does permit Sunday sales in some cases, "and everyone is happy with that," he said.
Sunday sales are permitted in Baltimore County under certain license classifications. A restaurant with a Class B license can sell alcohol on Sundays if the business derives more than half its sales from food. A tavern with a class D license is allowed Sunday sales if no more than 20 percent of the square footage is devoted to off-premises sales.
"It’s a fair playing field," Cohen said, "because when you go in to obtain your license, you know what the rules are then."