Md lawmakers plan to add beer and wine to grocery stores

The Maryland General Assembly is pushing to change state liquor sales laws to allow beer and wine on the shelves of grocery and convenience stores.

There is pressure in the Maryland General Assembly to change the state’s Liquor Sales Act to allow beer and wine on the shelves of grocery and convenience stores.

The Maryland Retailers Association is pushing for change, telling Annapolis lawmakers that state consumers lack the convenience 85% of Americans have – the ability to buy beer and wine at grocery stores .

“Maryland is one of four states where you can’t buy beer at a grocery store,” said Cailey Locklair, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

Alcohol sales in Maryland are governed by a 1978 law that prohibits chain stores from selling alcohol and denies liquor licenses to non-state residents. Those who push for change argue that consumers want more choice.

“They want to be able to buy beer and wine at their local grocery store, or their wholesale club, or their drugstore like you can in so many states across the country,” Locklair said.

Supporters of the current law argue that the expansion of sales to the state’s large chain stores could hurt independent mom-and-pop boutiques that depend on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The association said states including Colorado and Oklahoma that made similar changes in 2016 have not suffered losses from small businesses with monopolies on beer sales.

“The pessimistic arguments – that these guys are going to sink and we’re going to bankrupt them – no state has data to support that,” Locklair said.

Under the bill to the General Assembly, local licensing boards would issue licenses for the sale of beer and wine to chains that meet certain criteria, the first of which is that they must be located in one of the state “priority funding areas” – existing communities where local governments want state investment to support future growth.

To receive a beer and wine license, the store must sell food from the following categories: fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and uncooked meats, poultry and seafood, dairy products, canned foods, frozen foods, dry groceries and baked goods and non-alcoholic drinks.

The store would also be required to reserve a state-mandated percentage of shelf or floor space devoted to food products.

The Senate Committee on Education, Health and the Environment will hold a hearing on the bill on Friday. At the same time, it will go to the House Alcoholic Beverages Subcommittee.

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