Liquor board looking for opinions on later closing time for Carroll bars

With the start of the Maryland General Assembly’s session Wednesday, the county's liquor board discussed potential changes to the county’s laws at their meeting Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The Carroll delegation in Annapolis asked the board, formally referred to as the Board of License Commissioners, to give their thoughts on a law that would allow Carroll County bars and taverns to stay open until 2 a.m., said Board Chairman David L. Brauning, Sr. Currently, they are allowed to be open until 1 a.m.


The liquor board hopes to hear more opinions from stakeholders in the matter during their Feb. 13 meeting. They are seeking more opinions from county businesses with liquor licenses as well as law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups.

The board discussed potential effects of the proposed law they had come across as they began to survey local business owners and law enforcement.

Will a later closing time affect public safety, for good or bad? Will it increase revenue for businesses or increase operating costs? How many establishments will stay open until 2 a.m. if given the choice and how will that affect competition with others inside and outside the county? Will a more expensive license fee for increased hours put off business owners?

David Johansson, owner of Johanssons Dining House, Down Under Bar & Grill and other businesses in the county attended spoke on the record in favor of the later closing time.

In the past, for about a year, Carroll did allow consumption until 2 a.m., he said. He felt the law had been changed back, not because of wide-ranging problems, but because of a dispute between one individual and one business at the time.

Drinking is more expensive than it used to be and customers will come to bars later in the night, he said.

"The idea of guys hanging out in bars from after work until closing time is just about gone," he said. "In my view, we need to bring the county seat up to the standards of the rest of the state."

He has observed that patrons will leave Carroll County bars in the middle of a weekend night to go to neighboring counties where bars are open later.

The number of establishments that take advantage of the 2 a.m. closing time and the nights they stay open that late would be limited, he said.

"If you're a smart operator, you're going to learn the pattern of when you're going to open and when you're going to be closed," he said.

He also felt that ride-sharing services like Uber are becoming more common in the county and cut down on drunk driving.

No other meeting attendees spoke during the discussion.

Other Legislation

The liquor board also summarized three changes to state law that they had already recommended to the Carroll County delegation.

The delegation will notify the liquor board when the public hearing will be held for this legislation, Brauning said.


One proposal would no longer require Class BC license holders in Carroll to sell food at an off-premises event that is already catered.

Brauning said that, for example, Johansson’s wouldn’t have to serve hot dogs alongside alcoholic beverages they were serving at a downtown Westminster event is the event was already catered.

Another looks at abolishing a requirement for local license applications. This would affect licenses statewide.

Currently, applicants need “a petition of support signed by at least 10 residents who are owners of real estate and registered voters of the precinct in which the business is to be conducted,” according to the Code.

The board's justification for quashing the requirement is that it's "antiquated and redundant," according to their proposal.

More information about what is required with a local license application besides the petition can be found in the code. These include a criminal history background check.

The third proposal the liquor board will sponsor looks to make the wording of the Class D beer license and the Class D beer and wine license consistent.

The liquor board meets on the second Wednesday of each month in room 308 of the Carroll County Office Building, 225 N. Center St. in Westminster.