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Not everyone raising a glass for bill to allow Annapolis bookstores to sell beer, wine

The slogan at Old Fox Books in Annapolis is “story, coffee, conversation,” but co-owners Janice Holmes and Jinny Amundson hope to expand those offerings in the future, by selling beer and wine during readings, lectures and other events.

A law before the General Assembly would open that door. State Sen. John Astle, an Annapolis Democrat, has sponsored legislation that would enable the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to give what would be called a Bookstore Beer and Wine License. It would apply only to Annapolis.

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While Old Fox and others see the bill as a way to promote attractions, others see it as expanding the flow of alcohol throughout the state capital’s business district, and a move that would place pressure on other bookstores to embrace alcohol sales as well.

“It is hard to spit without hitting a place that sells alcohol in this town,” said Mary Adams, who owns The Annapolis Bookstore and is opposed to alcohol licenses for bookstores. “It is very shortsighted to take one industry and type of business and allow” it.

The license would cost $200 a year and alcohol sales couldn’t exceed 17 percent of “average daily receipts” of the business.

Del. Herb McMillan, an Annapolis Republican, has sponsored a version of the bill in the House of Delegates. The Senate approved the legislation last week; the House has scheduled a hearing for next week.

Holmes and Amundson envision selling beer and wine at monthly or sporadic events, such as “Nerd Nite,” at which people gather at the shop for a short presentation.

“When you add alcohol it adds a special layer,” Holmes said. “A celebratory taste.”

Some Annapolis residents are hostile to additional alcohol in the city. City Council meetings and discussions of new development that include alcohol routinely bring out people concerned about the number of bars and restaurants that stay open late into the night.

Adams said approving such licenses would put pressure on the other bookstores to compete and sell alcohol despite opposing it.

City Council member Elly Tierney opposes the bill. She cites zoning concerns and the pressure it would put on other bookstores.

“I think it is irresponsible for Senator Astle to go in and promise one bookstore they can do this,” she said. “It will open up a can of worms where everyone wants enabling legislation to apply for a liquor license.”

Astle said opponents are ill informed.

“No one [opposing the bill has] gone to the bookstore and asked these two women what they want to do,” Astle said of Old Fox Books. “I thought it was a good plan.”

Annapolis resident Stacy Hennessey said she supports Old Fox Books, and would attend events if they had a license for alcohol.

“We should support our local businesses,” she said. “It is not going to be an excess.”

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