With the resignation of Earle H. Brewer as chairman of the Carroll County liquor board, the county commissioners should take the opportunity to change the board's focus.
Whoever is appointed to the board should realize that it is not only responsible for enforcing the sale of alcoholic beverages but also plays an important role in the development of the county's hospitality industry.
At present, the board has a misguided policy that requires a new restaurant to be open for 90 days before it can receive a liquor license. The rule's ostensible purpose is to ensure that selling food -- rather than liquor -- is the primary source of revenue. There is no way to quantify the number of potential restaurants that have not opened because of this rule.
However, most restaurants that serve fine food are quick to point out that liquor sales are an absolute necessity to stay in business. Without the ability to serve cocktails, beer or wine, a restaurant significantly reduces its revenue and its attraction to diners -- and, as a result, operates under a considerable handicap.
It is time for the liquor board to recognize that its job is not to prevent people from opening up businesses, but to regulate those establishments that are currently in business. When liquor stores or restaurants sell alcohol to minors, they should be reprimanded, fined and, if necessary, shut down. If restaurants are willfully violating the county's liquor laws by becoming nothing more than noisy roadhouses, then the liquor board should respond quickly.
We understand the board's concern that some restaurants that have trouble selling food quickly convert themselves into taverns or bars. Bars that attract rowdies who like nothing more than to drink and fight are certainly not to be welcomed in Carroll. But the liquor board seems to be more interested in preventing restaurants from opening than closing down violators of its rules and regulation.
Most people don't think of the liquor board as an economic development engine, but this particular board has been acting as a brake. Rather than continuing a liquor board policy that clearly discourages the creation of new restaurants in Carroll, the commissioners should assist the board in rethinking when it appoints a new chairman.