Starting July 1, some Howard County restaurants will be able to sell draft beer in refillable containers and local golf courses will be able to serve alcohol at 6:30 a.m., thanks to bills passed unanimously during this year's Maryland General Assembly session.
The two bills were among six local bills submitted by the Howard County Delegation this session, all but one of which passed.
In addition, lawmakers also at least partially funded all but one of the county delegation's requests for bond funding.
All of the bills still have to be signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley before they become law.
The one county bill that failed was a proposal from Woodbine Republican Del. Warren Miller and Halethorpe Democrat Del. James Malone to authorize nonprofit veterans groups and volunteer fire departments to hold casino nights as fundraisers. This was the second year the two delegates tried to get the bill through, and while both years it had support from the county delegation, it has yet to make it past the House Ways and Means Committee.
Miller, in an earlier interview, said he would introduce the bill every year until it passes.
The bill authorizing the sale of draft beer in refillable containers, commonly called growlers, would allow restaurants that offer craft beers to sell it to their customers to take home. The bill specifies that the refillable containers must be between 32 and 128 ounces, sealable and branded by the license holder.
"Obviously we're thrilled, and we appreciate all the hard work our delegation did to make this a reality," said E. Randolph Marriner, the owner of Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, who requested the bill.
Marriner said the restaurant will likely do something to kick off the day it can start selling growlers again. Victoria had sold its draft beer in growlers, with the pub's name on the label, until December, when an inspector from the comptroller's office told him the law doesn't allow such sales because growlers are not full of alcohol and pre-sealed before the sale.
The delegation had requested an amendment to the growler bill to allow the sale of tap wine, but the House Economic Matters Committee did not approve it. The amendment had been requested by Joe Barbera, owner of AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar in Columbia, which offers 30 wines on tap.
"I'm a little disappointed that that wasn't part of the (bill)," Barbera said. He said the amendment probably failed because wine on tap "is something fairly new and it's not available in a large number of locations, like there are places that have beer on tap."
He added: "As this grows, we'll go back and we'll talk to the legislature again."
The delegation's other alcohol-related bill changes the state law regulating liquor licenses for golf courses in the county to allow licensed venues to serve alcohol from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. The law had only allowed licensed golf courses to start serving alcohol at 11 a.m., which some Howard venues said made booking special events difficult, especially when competing with venues in jurisdictions where alcohol can be served earlier.
Other local legislation that passed the General Assembly include:
• a bill, submitted by West Friendship Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, to authorize the Howard County Board of Education to waive the requirement that employers participating in unpaid student work-based learning programs reimburse the county for workers' compensation insurance coverage;
• a bill, submitted on behalf of the county administration, to allow the county's Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits to use the Criminal Justice Information System Central Repository to obtain national criminal history records for applicants seeking a massage establishment, pawnbroker or secondhand dealer establishment or taxicab license; and,
• a bill allowing Howard County deputy sheriffs to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.
Howard County also received slightly more than $1.1 million in bond funding. The funding includes:
• $500,000 for construction of a school building for the Linwood Center, an Ellicott City nonprofit that provides educational and residential services for adults and children living with autism;
• $365,000 for construction of the new Roger Carter Recreation Center in Ellicott City;
• $150,000 for renovations of historic Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage; and
• $130,000 for rehabilitation of an assisted living facility for disabled people in Columbia.
The funding for the Roger Carter center was $135,000 less than the delegation had requested; funding for the other projects was what the delegation requested.
The delegation had also asked for $150,000 for the rehabilitation of South Branch Park in Sykesville, but did not get any money for that project.