The future of how beer and wine is sold in Howard County could be decided Tuesday nightwhen the county Liquor Board deliberates the fate of a warehouse-style store proposed just south of Ellicott City.
Total Beverage, which has three large stores in Northern Virginia, aims to open a store the size of an ice rink in the new Long Gate shopping center at U.S. 29 and Route 103. The store would offer 5,000 kinds of wine and 500 varieties of beer.
Total Beverage is seeking a sales license from Howard's Liquor Board, made up of the five members of the County Council. The board has held five hearings on the case so far.
On Monday night, store officials made their final pitch to the board, arguing that consumers are turning more and more to "big-box" stores.
"Modern retailing has emphasized one-stop shopping," said David A. Carney, an attorney for Total Beverage.
But an attorney representing Howard County's small liquor store owners -- who fear that Total Beverage could drive some of them out of business -- said the size of Total Beverage flies in the face of Maryland's goal to promote "temperance" through its alcohol laws.
"This is not just a package goods store," said Richard B. Talkin, the attorney. "It is an invitation to come, to buy, to be taken in by the Total operation. It is an invitation to become involved with alcohol, rather then a service to fulfill."
Total also has been opposed by the Bethel Baptist Church, which is across Route 103 from Long Gate.
As part of their arguments against the store, opponents claim that Total Beverage's parent company, Dart Group Corp., has corporate ties to two beer-and-wine stores in Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Ownership of more than one liquor license in the state is not allowed under Maryland law.
The store's lawyer, Carney, says Total's links with the other stores are so indirect as not to pose a problem under Maryland law.
The Liquor Board will begin deliberations at 7: 30 p.m. Tuesday. C. Vernon Gray, chairman, indicated the panel could reach a decision by the end of the evening.
Pub Date: 12/11/96