Liquor board weighs changes to county alcohol regulations

The County Council, sitting as the Liquor Board, is reviewing its regulations on the manufacture, sale, distribution, transportation and storage of alcohol beverages in Howard County.

The board has proposed several amendments to the regulations, including an increase in the application fee for a license from $200 to $225 and increases to administrative fines issued for rules violations.

Most of the other amendments are technical changes or updates that reflect changes in state liquor laws.

The board held a public hearing on the proposed changes Thursday, Oct. 20. Only four people testified, including an attorney who works on licensing cases and a police officer who serves as liquor inspector.

The others who testified were Ellicott City residents Francis Miller and Angela Beltram, both of whom suggested that the administrative fines be raised higher than the board is considering. The board's proposed changes would have fines ranging from $35 for failing to display a license to $275 for refilling or tampering with an alcoholic beverage container.

"In general, increase all the suggested fine amounts by as much as 100 percent or more," Miller said.

Before issuing a license, the regulations direct the board to consider "the public need and desire for the license" and "the number and location of existing licenses."

Miller said those requirements need to be removed or altered, as "there are no specific guidelines to follow in order to make a decision."

Beltram agreed that the requirements are vague, and also suggested requiring the Alcohol Beverage Hearing Board, a five-member citizens panel that hears most licensing cases, to visit the business site where a license is being requested before hearing the case.

The board plans to hold a work session and adopt changes to its regulations by the end of the year.

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