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Carryout cocktails are here to stay in Harford County, at least until 2023

Carryout alcohol sales will remain permitted in Harford County after a Wednesday meeting of the county’s liquor control board, which agreed that restaurants should be given latitude to continue the pandemic-era practice.

The Harford County Liquor Control Board voted 4-0, with one member absent, to continue allowing carryout alcohol sales, but with a few conditions. The rule goes into effect immediately by a vote of the board.

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According to the text passed, liquor license holders can continue to deliver and sell alcohol for off-premises consumption provided that the purchaser also buys at least $20 worth of food per 48 fluid ounces of beer, 750 milliliters of wine (a standard bottle) or 16 ounces of any cocktail.

Purchasers will also have to fill out a special receipt and sign to prove they are 21. Vice chair of the board Paul Majewski said the receipt would force a purchaser to sign the document and put their age on record. Those receipts have to be kept for a minimum of two years, the text states, and must be made available for review upon request.

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“We want to take every precaution” to stop underage drinking, Majewski said.

Carryout drinks cannot be sold after 11 p.m., according to the text passed, nor can they cost less than the same drinks served on the premises.

The allowance will last until June 30, 2023, mirroring legislation passed in the General Assembly that gave jurisdictions the option to opt in or out of the practice.

Harford joins other counties like Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Anne Arundel in allowing carryout drinks. Cecil County, on the other hand, ended the allowance, as did Baltimore City.

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Bel Air town Commissioner Erin Hughes, who spoke for her fellow commissioners at the meeting, was supportive of the new rule. Though the county’s positivity rate is below 3%, and the pandemic has greatly slowed, she said that restaurants are still feeling the pinch of higher food prices and labor issues and should be allowed to continue to serve to-go alcohol as a way of pulling in much-needed revenue.

“At this point, it is best to err on the side of caution that provides more provisions for our local restaurants to continue to make up that lost revenue and provide additional options for customers who are still not necessarily comfortable dining at a rest in an indoor [or] outdoor setting yet,” she said.

Owner of Black Eyed Suzie’s Brian Acquavella told the board that carryout cocktails had not sold much volume, but they earned the restaurant some extra money. Allowing takeout and delivery cocktails, he said, makes things more convenient for customers who want a “one-stop shop” for food and drink.

Enforcement of the rules was not a problem either, Acquavella said.

While no one voted against the continuation, board member James Welch said that most restaurants he sees are still in recovery and that passage of the extension on carryout drinks made sense to help them.

Board member Susan Burdette pointed out that for many emergency responders, medical professionals and members of the military, the pandemic is still on. She said some she knew in those fields did not plan to go to restaurants, but still supported them through their carryout options.

“If we can help these hard hit restaurants in any way we can to diversify their operations, which is what they have been able to do, it is only common sense that this be passed,” she said.

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