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Harford liquor bills advance in Annapolis, but legislators have differences to resolve

Bills in the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages at some events on the campus of Harford Community College and in local movie theaters have passed their respective houses in Annapolis.

The House and Senate versions of the legislation contain significant differences, however, that will have to be resolved among Harford's senators and delegates before they can be enacted.

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House Bill 1051 and Senate Bill 916 would permit Harford Community College to obtain an alcoholic beverage license for the sale of beer and wine that are held on campus by third parties, but the House version has more limitations that the Senate's.

The House of Delegates approved HB-1051 by a 133-1 vote on March 11, but not before the sponsors – Harford's eight-member delegation – amended the bill to limit the number of days such events could be held to 25 annually.

HB-1051 has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee but did not have a hearing date set as of Monday morning.

The Senate enacted SB-916 by a 46-0 vote on March 15. It had not be assigned to a committee in the House as of Monday morning.

Sponsored by Harford's three senators, SB-916 is identical to the HB-1051 except is does not have a 25-day maximum that events held on campus can sell beer and wine.

Both bills would prohibit the sale of alcohol at school athletic events or student-sponsored events.

Movie theater licenses

House Bill 892 and Senate Bill 795 would create a new alcoholic beverage license for movie theaters in Harford County, of which currently there are two: Carmike Cinemas Digiplex at Campus Hills Shopping Center in Churchville and Regal Cinemas Bel Air in Abingdon's Constant Friendship business community.

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The two bills differ, however, on what could be sold and other requirements.

The House passed HB-892 by a 135-2 vote on March 12, and it has been assigned to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee with no hearing date set as of Monday morning.

Sponsored by the full eight-member Harford delegation, HB-892 would permit the sale of beer, wine and liquor on the premises from 4 p.m. to midnight. Those beverages would have to be sold in single serve containers from a counter separate one serving other refreshments.

Senate Bill 795, which is sponsored by the three Harford senators, would only permit the sale of beer and wine, not hard liquor.

The bill passed the Senate by a 46-0 vote on March 9 and has been assigned to the House Economic Matters committee, with no hearing date set as of Monday morning.

Both bills would require the theater owner to sell food other than candy and popcorn. The House version, however, also requires the owner to provide documentation to the county Liquor Control Board that they have made a minimum investment of $250,000 in the business in order to receive the liquor license.

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