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Forest Hill wine bar, store turned down by Harford's liquor board

A request for a new wine bar and store in the Rock Spring Shopping Center was turned down Wednesday by the Harford County Liquor Control Board, which cited a lack of "public need" for another alcohol establishment in the Forest Hill area.

The owners of at least four other liquor establishments complained about the retail part of the proposed business, to be called Wine Sellers, at a February liquor board meeting.

They told the board the new liquor store would mean too much competition.

On Wednesday, liquor board members voted 4-0 to reject the application for the entire business, both bar and store, although the protesters did not have a problem with the bar part. Board member Thomas Fidler, who was not at the meeting two weeks ago when the plan was presented, abstained from voting.

Board members cited "the public need" and decided it was "not necessary for the accommodation of the public," a valid reason for rejecting such a proposal under Maryland code.

"They did not feel there was a need," liquor board administrator Judith Powell said Thursday about the board's decision. "They feel that the area was already satisfactorily served by existing licensees."

Powell said the decision was not unusual and businesses have been rejected in the recent past for the same reason.

She cited Del Plaza Wine and Spirits, which was turned down for a license in 2012.

"What is usually the biggest issue that comes up with a new Class A [license] is the off-sale, the liquor store," Powell said.

Wine Sellers had no problems originally when it got tentative approval to operate on March 20, 2013. That approval was revoked July 30, 2013, when licensees Randall Cypher and Baron Edwards failed to provide the board with a timely update on the project, Powell said earlier.

Cypher and Edwards resubmitted the request for tentative approval on Sept. 13, 2013, and again faced no resistance.

In February, however, other business owners said Wine Sellers would dilute their own business too much.

The owners' attorney, Linda Carter, said her clients were surprised by the verdict.

"Obviously we were disappointed," she said Thursday. "I thought the license would still be approved given what the board had previously done."

She said the owners hope to decide soon if they will appeal.

"We are evaluating our options," she said.

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