Liquor board considers change in license structure after granting upgrade


A request to upgrade the liquor license at Genova's Restaurant in Hampstead has prompted the Board of License Commissioners to discuss whether the county license structure should be revised.

Board members granted the upgrade -- from a Class B Beer and Wine restaurant license to a Class BC Beer, Wine and Liquor restaurant and catering license -- during a hearing yesterday morning.

Vita J. Chesney and her husband, Darryl -- the restaurant's owners -- said they needed the upgrade to expand their catering business and to serve beer and wine to their restaurant customers on Sundays.

Liquor board member John P. Buchheister Jr. pointed out that allowing Class B Beer and Wine license holders to serve alcohol on Sundays, with a separate catering license, would have accomplished the same thing.

Currently, state regulations do not provide for that option. The liquor license classifications are:

* Class B Beer and Wine, good for six days a week, excluding Sunday.

* Class B Beer, Wine and Liquor, good for seven days a week.

* Class BC Beer, Wine and Liquor served in a restaurant and at off-site catering, seven days a week.

"There is inconsistency in the licensing," Mr. Buchheister said. "You can sell beer, wine and liquor seven days a week, but can only sell six days a week if you have a beer and wine license."

Any additions or changes the county wants to make in liquor license classifications must be approved by the General Assembly, said James D. Norvell, liquor board administrator.

Ms. Chesney, who is the sole licensee, said she and her husband wanted the new license primarily for their off-site catering business, which has expanded greatly since they started it last year.

In fact, the couple had been inadvertently issued a Class BC Beer, Wine and Liquor license last year when they requested a catering license. J. Ronald Lau, then liquor administrator, let them use the license for their catering business until the end of the year, Ms. Chesney said.

Since then, the business -- which has catered functions every weekend since mid-February -- has been applying for a special license for each function, she said. Ms. Chesney also said her catering schedule is filled through November.

Often, restaurants with seven-day Class B Beer, Wine and Liquor licenses are simply issued a catering license upon request. However, Genova's owners had to attend a separate hearing because the new license would add the ability to sell liquor in the restaurant.

"I need to have the [special] license for catering," Ms. Chesney said, explaining why she has been making the request weekly. "If it's not granted, then I will lose that business to someone else [who can provide alcohol.]"

Mr. and Ms. Chesney also said they have Sunday customers who have requested alcohol.

"We do have a certain amount of clientele on Sunday who like to have a little light wine with their dinner," said Ms. Chesney, noting that customers don't often leave when they learn they can't be served.

"I have a very loyal clientele, but that doesn't mean I should take advantage of it and neglect what they need," she said. "Just because they stay doesn't mean next Sunday they won't go somewhere else."

Board members, in handing down their favorable decision, suggested the Chesneys begin thinking about expanding their restaurant in the North Carroll shopping center.

Business at the restaurant, which seats 50, has tripled during the three years it has been open, said Russell Mayer, board chairman.

"You're right; we are busting at the seams," said Ms. Chesney, noting that they are considering expansion. "But it takes a lot of coordination, engineering and good people to get where we are at. We count on our business too much to play with it."

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