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Kamenetz liquor license plan: Take from one business to give to another

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz plans to improve the economy of Baltimore County by changing liquor license law. Should Mr. Kamenetz accept the recommendations submitted by his appointed 12 member task force, he plans, "setting aside political calculations and process details, [to] move Baltimore County in a positive direction" by effectively transferring the wealth of businesses, which have been around for years, to businesses he deems more likely to increase the county coffers.

The plan will systematically eliminate current license law that's based on population (one license for every 2,500 residents) and replace it with one that will "spur economic development" by increasing the number of licenses based on need and accommodation, as determined by the county executive and the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

The task-force, co-chaired by Baltimore County's director of economic development and chief administrator for the liquor board readily admit the new plan will eliminate the value of over 400 existing licenses, thereby reducing the value of those businesses, businesses that have already been hard hit by the failed economy and real estate collapse. They insist it's an economic winner.

The county executive's task force also recommends eliminating county residency rules and creating 25 new site-specific "service bar licenses" with annual fees of $5,000 each. "Service bar" restaurants must be under a specific square footage, provide table service and accommodate at least 30 but less than 100 guests. This is their idea of "liquor license equalization"?

The county executive fully expects the new liquor license equalization plan to create hundreds of restaurant service sector jobs. He obviously thinks these will replace the hundreds of manufacturing jobs that have been lost throughout Baltimore County. In the especially hard hit Essex/Middle River area, Mr. Kamenetz seems more concerned with transferring licenses out than transferring jobs in.

While Mr. Kamenetz's task force may have accommodated his need, the plan has yet to be vetted by the business owners who will have their license and business de-valued, or the faith based groups who value abstinence, or Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or communities who may not want liquor in more local restaurants, or the voters of East Side who need high paying jobs and like their taverns the way they are, where they are, or people who think the idea of government transferring the value of one business to another is just wrong.

Bruce Laing

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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