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Harford liquor board supports allowing gyms to sell alcoholic beverages

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Harford County's Liquor Control board wants to be able grant a liquor license to athletic clubs and is also asking for legislation to modify the liquor license at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

Speaking to a group of state legislators who represent Harford County during at meeting in Bel Air on Oct. 16, the board members asked for a handful of new laws, including one that concerns gyms.

Liquor inspector Danielle Markette said the Arena Club and the Bel Air Athletic Club specifically asked for a liquor license that would allow members to have alcohol during parties at the facilities.

The change would add athletic clubs as a miscellaneous organization or club to the Class C3 club license.

Markette and board members explained they are also trying to compete with other swim centers that allow members to bring their own drinks in some cases.

Del. Rick Impallaria said he is concerned about that because he knows Anne Arundel County has similar licenses and the gyms "basically become night clubs at night."

Impallaria said he does not want to see athletic facilities turn into night clubs in Harford.

Markette said she does not think the Arena Club or Bel Air Athletic Club have any intention of that.

Del. Mary-Dulany James asked if the change would allow the gyms to have a full bar, and board member Michael Thomson said part of the desire is to allow them to have what many swim clubs in the area already have.

Sen. J.B. Jennings said he could see a situation where a club would have a pool where attendees could also sit at the bar and watch a game on TV.

"I do see that as an economic development tool for these facilities," Jennings said of the drinking idea.

He said he does not have a problem with a facility putting in a small bar area.

Impallaria, however, also noted: "I don't really see how good health and alcohol go hand in hand."

Another proposed bill discussed last week would allow visitors to Ripken Stadium to carry alcohol throughout the premises and to keep the alcohol in aluminum containers instead of just plastic, Styrofoam or paper.

Alcohol would still only be served on the club level or dining area. The stadium only allows drinks to be consumed in the seated areas or club level.

Markette explained the proposal is not in response to any specific concern but would just allow the stadium operators more options, if it wanted to pursue them.

She said it just makes it easier for the licensee and assured the legislators it is similar to the set-up at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and other ballparks.

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