Carroll County restaurants and bars can again provide carryout and delivery of alcoholic beverages as the liquor board works to create regulations of the sales.
The Carroll County Liquor Board met on Wednesday with local restaurant, bar and brewery owners to gauge their interest in continuing to sell to-go and delivery drinks to their customers.
Last year, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order to help struggling restaurants and bars by allowing them to carry out and deliver drinks. Although it was intended to be temporary during the COVID-19 pandemic, in May the governor signed a bill allowing the sales for at least two more years.
The legislation limits hours to no later than 11 p.m. and requires establishments to get approval from local liquor boards, whose regulations vary from county to county.
Such sales have been paused in Carroll County since July 1, when Hogan’s COVID-19 emergency order lapsed, until the county board could rule on the issue.
At Wednesday’s meeting, liquor board chair David Brauning asked if delivery of alcohol has decreased since restrictions on restaurants have been lifted .
Bruce Reamer, owner of Salerno’s, a restaurant in Eldersburg, said “delivery business has been increasing with the summer months” while people tend to want to stay in during the latter half of the day.
“Alcohol sales have been substantial,” he said.
Jen Elliott of the Market Tavern in Sykesville said they started delivering alcoholic drinks during the pandemic.
“I would like to continue to do it,” she said. “I think it’s a safe way for people to enjoy their alcohol.”
Brauning went on to inquire about interest in selling carry out drinks, reminding the state law says the sale has to be in conjunction with food.
“I think it’s up to us as license holders to initiate policies in regards to quantity of alcohol purchase, who is serving the alcohol to guests and properly identifying guests who are purchasing it,” Susan Nardyz, owner of Rocksalt Grille in Westminster, said. “Our staff knows if anything seems suspect they are to stop the sale.”
Board member George Harmening asked whether the owners thought the “monetary advantage outweighs the liability you’re going to be taking on?”
“When we started selling [drinks to go], it really excited our customer base … Throughout COVID it helped us with our profit margins,” Nardyz said.
After the discussion, Brauning said “this board will do our job and come up with what we think would be acceptable to the board as well as the licensees.”
In other jurisdictions, some restrictions include only allowing two drinks to be ordered per entrée, requiring delivery drivers be at least 21 years of age and keep a log of every delivery they make.
“We’ll come up with a reasonable document you all will be happy with,” the chairman said. “In the meantime, it’s the feeling of this commission that we allow you to [continue selling carry out and delivery alcohol as] you were before, effective immediately, until we come up with the final rules and regulations.”
He said once the regulations are complete, owners will be asked to request to participate in the off-premises sales.
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Another public hearing will be held next month to give restaurant and bar owners the opportunity to review the proposed document and express any concerns.