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Baltimore County liquor board votes to allow bars and restaurants to serve two alcoholic drinks to-go per meal

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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