Wine bar owner pushes for law to allow take-home sales of wine on tap

The owner of a Columbia wine bar is pushing state lawmakers to pass a law that would allow him and other local retailers to sell wine on tap in bottles for customers to take home.

Joe Barbera, owner of AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar in Columbia, said wine on tap is a fairly new concept and he believes he's the only retailer in Howard who currently offers it.

"The good news is that this is becoming a little more mainstream than it was two years ago when we looked into it," he said.

Barbera started selling wine on tap at his restaurant in December of 2010. AIDA now offers 30 wines on tap, which Barbera said is the second largest offering in the country.

"Some of the things we sell here are not that easy to find," he said.

Under state law, Howard County restaurants with a special liquor license are allowed to sell pre-packaged beer and wine for people to take home. The Howard County Delegation is considering a bill that would allow the restaurants to sell draft beer in 32-ounce to 128-ounce refillable containers, called growlers. A straw vote last week showed unanimous delegation support for the bill.

Barbera wants the delegation to amend the bill to allow restaurants to sell wine on tap in refillable bottles, somewhere between half a liter to a liter and a half in size.

The public will have the opportunity to provide thoughts on the ability of retailers to sell draft beer or wine on tap in refillable bottles at the delegation's public hearing Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the George Howard Building.

If the delegation members still support the bill after hearing the testimony, delegation co-chair Del. Guy Guzzone said they will send a letter to the House Economic Matters Committee asking for the bill to be amended to include wine on tap.

The bill has to be approved by the entire General Assembly before becoming law.

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