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Ebersole proposes liquor law change to help Catonsville Gourmet

Catonsville Gourmet, left, is less than 300 feet away from Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, right, in this photograph from Feb. 19.
Catonsville Gourmet, left, is less than 300 feet away from Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, right, in this photograph from Feb. 19. (Rachael Pacella / Staff Photo)

Del. Eric Ebersole introduced a bill this month that would allow Catonsville Gourmet to sell liquor despite its proximity to Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Ebersole (D-District 12) has brought the bill to the Baltimore County delegation for approval, which he hopes to get at a meeting Feb. 26.

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In some ways, when Catonsville Gourmet opened in 2008 it sparked a restaurant renaissance along Frederick Road, Ebersole said in an interview Feb. 17.

Businesses like Black Kettle opened up just a short distance away. And while Ebersole is pleased to see a vital downtown, there's an issue — Catonsville Gourmet is within 300 feet of a church, so it can't serve alcohol under state law.

"The other restaurants have opened a little farther down the block, making it a little bit more difficult for Gourmet to compete," Ebersole said.

Ebersole hopes to even the playing field with a bill that will allow liquor to be sold near churches in certain areas. The bill is limited to Baltimore County. Dels. Terri Hill and Clarence Lam, both Democrats representing District 12, are co-sponsoring the bill.

The House version had a committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 22, and the Senate version has a hearing slated for March 8.

Sen. Edward Kasemeyer has filed a corresponding bill in the Senate.

Though County Councilman Tom Quirk, a Democrat, doesn't have a say in the matter, he said he supports the bill.

"I think this helps make them more competitive and ensures their long-term viability in Catonsville," Quirk said. "I haven't gotten any negative feedback from anyone in regards to this idea."

Craig Rinkerman, Catonsville Gourmet owner, testified at a hearing on the bill to tell other Baltimore County legislators it would help his business.

Under the bill, the terms under which liquor could be served near a church are very specific, Ebersole said. The establishment would need to be in a county revitalization district, zoned "Business Local – Commercial Community Core," and be at least 100 feet from a church.

Those requirements are tailored to Catonsville Gourmet.

"It's a very limited bill," Ebersole said.

The legislators are reaching out to fellow Baltimore County delegates to see whether any other businesses would be affected.

"So far we haven't heard from anyone," he said.

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Catonsville Gourmet is within 300 feet of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church. The church's pastor is on board with the change, according to Ebersole.

"They like having a vital downtown near their church," Ebersole said.

Catonsville Gourmet patrons are currently allowed to bring their own alcohol to the restaurant.

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