The Baltimore County liquor board voted to resume to-go liquor privileges for bars, restaurants and taverns with restrictions of two drinks per meal after a Monday hearing, effective immediately.
The policy was approved for at least two years, allowing cocktails for carryout or delivery.
“As we continue our recovery, we must do all we can to help our small businesses innovate and diversify their operations,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement. “This is another common sense step to support the continued recovery of this hard-hit industry, and we applaud today’s decision.”
On-the-go cocktails had been legal for more than a year after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extended to-go privileges to the state’s bars and restaurants at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But when Hogan lifted Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency as of July 1, that ended several pandemic-related orders, including provisions allowing Maryland restaurants and bars to sell to-go-drinks.
Legislation passed earlier this year by the Maryland General Assembly allowed the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore City to continue the to-go option, but local liquor boards have the ultimate authority. Several jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, opted to pause to-go cocktails at the beginning of the month.
Carryout drinks became a popular commodity during the health crisis, providing struggling businesses with a consistent stream of revenue. Many restaurant owners argued to make the option permanent beyond the pandemic.
In February, State Sen. Shelly Hettleman, a Baltimore County Democrat, said making the to-go cocktail rules permanent “could be very helpful” for our restaurant industry right now that’s “really suffering.”
Carroll and Harford counties also paused to-go drinks July 1 but have liquor board hearings scheduled to discuss continuing the practice. Carroll County’s liquor board plans to discuss carryout cocktails Wednesday; Harford’s liquor board will meet July 28.
Howard County’s liquor board said it would continue allowing carryout drinks through at least Aug. 15 — the grace period at the end of the state executive. It also has a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
Baltimore City’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners plans to revisit rules for all licenses in the fall, including rules on to-go drinks.
Baltimore Sun Media editors S. Wayne Carter Jr. and Erin Hardy contributed to this article.