County business owners, law enforcement and Catherine’s Cause spoke at a public hearing on a proposed measure to allow Carroll establishments to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. But the law will likely not go before the Maryland General Assembly until next session.
Currently, the bars, restaurants and taverns may stay open until 1 a.m. with a Carroll liquor license.
The Board of License Commissioners, known informally as the Liquor Board, hosted a public hearing Feb. 13, bringing together about 15 stakeholders from the county.
Board Chairman David L. Brauning Sr. said the deadline for the Carroll delegation to receive proposed legislation from the Liquor Board is usually the first day of September, so the Liquor Board would probably make their recommendation to the local lawmakers before the 2020 session.
“The process that goes through to get legislation passed, [it] takes them sometimes four, five or six weeks,” Brauning said.
Owners of county bars and restaurants spoke about the pros and cons of staying open later.
Especially for establishments closer to the county lines, like Memories Charcoal House in Mount Airy or Spargo’s in Manchester, owners said they were hurt by competition from nearby bars that are outside of Carroll and can stay open until 2 a.m.
“Around 10:30, 11 o'clock, we could have a full restaurant,” said Memories President Jon Speiser. “They will just pack up and leave … because they can go over and drink till 2 a.m.”
Peter Samios, president of the Carroll County Licensed Beverage Association, which represents retail liquor license owners, also spoke in favor of the 2 a.m. closing time, reiterating the competitive disadvantage for Carroll license holders.
Brauning said the board received a number of responses by email and described them as 50-50 for and against the later closing time.
Both law enforcement agencies who sent representatives in person, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office and the Westminster Police Department, didn’t take a stance on either side of the issue.
Sheriff Jim DeWees said: “We don't believe that leaving the establishments open until 2 a.m. is going to increase the amount of intoxicated individuals that we see on our roadways. I’ve looked at a number of the stops that we've made over the last several months not only my office, but the state police, Westminster PD and the other jurisdictions, and it’s pretty nominal.”
He did not think it would mean extra work for law enforcement traffic patrols and, if anything, drunk drivers may be easier to spot after 2 a.m. with thinner traffic on the roads, he said.