Eased rules on alcohol sales are opposed Legislators weigh proposals by liquor board


The agenda included a package of legislation that could change the rules for Sunday sales, drive-up windows at liquor stores and whether minors can serve drinks. But some of Carroll's state legislators made it clear yesterday that the discussion made them uncomfortable.

In a two-hour meeting with the county commissioners and liquor board members at Bear Branch Nature Center, two of the six lawmakers mentioned serious concerns about alcohol use.

"I think we should put a label on the stuff that says, 'May be fatal or harmful if swallowed,' " said Sen. Larry E. Haines, a 5th District Republican who chairs the county's delegation.

Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a 4th District Republican, said he opposed the sale of alcohol on Sundays and did not want to support any bill that would make it more convenient to buy alcohol.

"I'm a pro-family politician, and I make sure everybody knows it," he said. "We need to cover our backsides as our political opponents come out, as they always do."

Liquor board members proposed 10 pieces of legislation yesterday and asked the delegation to consider introducing them during the next General Assembly session, which begins in January.

Legislators will hold a public hearing on the proposals at a January hearing before the session opens, Mr. Haines said.

One suggested bill already is dead, he said. The liquor board proposed that package-goods stores be allowed to open on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve if those days fall on Sundays.

The owners of some county package-goods stores requested the change, liquor board Chairman Russell Mayer said.

The county currently does not permit the stores to be open on Sunday.

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell said all three commissioners are against the change. He and Commissioner Richard T. Yates attended yesterday's meeting; Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown did not.

"We ought to be guided by the wisdom of the county commissioners on this issue," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, a 5th District Democrat.

Mr. Haines said of the proposed change, "Looks to me like it's a little more greed here than it is need."

A bill prohibiting drive-up or walk-up windows where alcohol is served is likely to be introduced; none of the legislators or commissioners expressed opposition.

There are no drive-up or walk-up windows where alcohol is sold in Carroll, Mr. Mayer said, and the county wants to keep it that way.

It's easier and more accurate for employees to check identification face-to-face, he said.

The delegation will discuss further a bill proposed by Ledo Pizza owner Robert Contarino of Westminster to allow waiters and waitresses who are 18 or older to dispense, serve and sell alcohol, Mr. Haines said.

The proposal would not apply to taverns.

Currently, waiters 18 or older may take an order and serve alcohol, but may not pour it or take the money to pay for it. An employee 21 or older must handle those steps.

The distinction is "technical" and should be eliminated, Mr. Contarino said. Eighteen-year-old waiters have "the big responsibility" of checking identification when taking orders and should be allowed to pour and sell the drinks, he said.

The liquor board voted 2-1 against the proposal. Member Romeo Valianti voted for it. The county commissioners discussed the issue but took no position, Mr. Dell said.

No one under 21 should be allowed to sell alcohol, Mr. Mayer said, "because they would have a tendency to let their friends have a beer."

Mr. Haines said an 18-year-old should be able to complete the transaction if the alcohol is served with a meal and if the server is not working as a bartender.

The liquor board also proposed a bill to allow people 15 or older to bus tables or wash dishes in restaurants that serve alcohol. Currently, such employees must be 18 or older.

The law often is ignored, liquor board member Jerry D. Gooding said.

"It prohibits a lot of youngsters from being able to work," Mr. Haines said.

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