Carroll County bars and taverns allowed to close one hour later, beginning July 1

Beginning Wednesday, July 1, Carroll County’s bars and taverns will have the option to serve alcoholic beverages an hour later, giving them the potential to stay open until 2 a.m., even if many aren’t ready to do so under the current COVID-19-related restrictions.

The changes were passed into law during this year’s shortened Maryland General Assembly session. Before asking legislators to bring the bill to Annapolis, the county’s liquor board held a public hearing and asked for opinions from stakeholders.


Sgt. Keith Benfer, Carroll County liquor board inspector, said he and the board have been relying on phone calls and emails to answer questions and keep license holders informed about the change because of limited in-person interaction. If license holders wish to change their hours, they must notify the board.

Benfer said he was happy to say that he didn’t know of any license holders that were closing down due to COVID-19. At the July 8 liquor board meeting, board members will discuss whether to continue to allow carry-out of mixed drinks.


Benfer’s only complaint about the change in hours was that he personally will have to be out at 2 a.m. sometimes to investigate possible violations.

Carroll law enforcement agencies don’t believe the one-hour shift will affect road patrols.

Lt. Rebecca Bosley of the Westminster Barrack of the Maryland State Police said the hour change would have no effect on troopers. Sheriff Jim DeWees said deputies on night shift are already out on the roads well before closing time, so they would not be affected.

Jim Breuer, longtime owner of Maggie’s Restaurant in downtown Westminster, said they would not be extending their hours to 2 a.m. But he was happy that others have the option.

It’s especially important to businesses located near the border to Pennsylvania or other Maryland counties where the closing time was already later, he said. It opens up opportunities for those looking to start new establishments near the county lines or sell an existing establishment.

Stacy McQuay, right, serves Frank McCully, left, and Dan Smith, dining off the Restaurant Week menu at Maggie's in Westminster Sunday, August 16, 2015.
Stacy McQuay, right, serves Frank McCully, left, and Dan Smith, dining off the Restaurant Week menu at Maggie's in Westminster Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times file)

Rafael’s Restaurant in Westminster will be looking at gradually pushing their hours back and seeing what works best in the future when COVID-19 restrictions are more relaxed, employee Kristy Harrison said. Right now they are working with a limited menu and like all restaurants have limited capacity and distancing rules. The atmosphere is different when guests can’t stand and gather around the bar. She said the restaurant doesn’t really have a problem with competition from across state lines.

Rachael Beck of E.W. Beck’s Restaurant & Pub in Sykesville, said, “We don’t really have a late night bar crowd, so it wasn’t something that was high on our radar as something that needed to change, but we’ll see how it works for us. ... We’re usually closed well before then.”

They won’t look to make changes until later when it is safer. Right now, they aren’t encouraging the use of the bar after the kitchen has closed to help keep patrons socially distancing.

At the public meetings last year, David Johansson, owner of Johanssons Dining House and Down Under Bar & Grill and O’Lordans Irish Pub & Restaurant, all in Westminster, was one of the most vocal supporters of extended hours. He was concerned about the disparity between Carroll and surrounding areas, and said Carroll businesses were losing customers because of it.

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 at the time. “In my view, we need to bring the county seat up to the standards of the rest of the state.”

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