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Harford legislators to change residency requirement for liquor licenses

Restaurant and Catering IndustryDistilling and Brewing IndustryColleges and UniversitiesCollege SportsMaryland General Assembly

The first Harford County local legislation of the 2012 Maryland General Assembly would significantly change a qualification for holding a resident alcoholic beverage license.

HB-204, introduced Jan. 25, and its companion, SB-67, state that the person who applies to hold an alcoholic beverage license "shall be a bona fide resident of Harford County for at least one year before filing the application and shall remain a resident as long as the license is in effect." The applicant is not required to be a registered voter.

Current law reads that the applicant only must be a resident "at the time of" filing the application.

Harford permits only individuals to hold beer, wine and liquor licenses, and the principal licensee must be a county resident. Corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and other business entities must apply for the license in the name of an individual who is a county resident.

In recent years, the county's Liquor Control Board has expressed concerns that the residency requirement was being skirted by using local residents as "straw" holders of the license or through applicants who say they live in the county but then are never seen on the premises. The residency requirement in theory, at least, ensures that a local individual is responsible for the conduct of the establishment that has a license to sell alcohol.

HB-204 is assigned to the House Economic Matters Committee; a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. SB-67 is assigned to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee; a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m.

The Harford House delegation has also introduced HB-205 which removes a limitation on when an annual wine festival can be held in the county, leaving this decision to the sole discretion of the liquor board. The current law limits such a festival to spring/summer months and states the festival can't conflict with similar festivals in other counties.

A third alcoholic beverage bill introduced by the House delegation, HB-248, will remove a requirement from the class C-3 club license that the location have at least six tennis courts.

College debt

The county's three senators are sponsoring SB-259, which adds Harford Community College to existing legislation that allows community colleges to incur debt on their own, including entering into long-term financing and lease-purchase agreements.

Prior to the start of the new legislative session, several Harford lawmakers said they planned to take actions to facilitate HCC's plan to partner with Towson University in developing a four-year program on HCC's planned west campus.

Farm breweries

Northern Harford Sen. Barry Glassman announced Thursday he is offering his support for a new class of brewing license that could potentially aid all Maryland farmers looking to create their own small craft breweries.

As it stands, anyone with a micro-brewery under what is known as a Class 5 License must be attached to a restaurant license as well, Glassman said in a news release. "This poses difficulties for anyone not owning a restaurant looking to brew beer in small amounts."

Glassman's release said the legislation will permit brewing beer on a farm in limited quantities, which could then be sold on premises in different quantities, as well as shipped to restaurants or pubs. It would also require that a certain percentage of the products used to brew the beer be grown on the farm.

This proposed license would mirror that of so-called limited wineries legislation, he said, but it will not affect the state's three-tiered system that regulates respective roles of producers, wholesalers and retailers.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Restaurant and Catering IndustryDistilling and Brewing IndustryColleges and UniversitiesCollege SportsMaryland General Assembly
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