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Posted by: nacho
« on: July 29, 2016, 11:55:00 AM »


Maryland’s Soviet Liquor County

ryland’s Montgomery County is a nice place. Its western border runs along the Potomac River, and its southern territory abuts Washington, D.C. Many folks who work in the district settle in Bethesda and other parts of Montgomery County, as the schools tend to be better and the property prices lower. It is Maryland’s richest county, and boasts many attractions.

But Montgomery County is a case study in the peril of allowing the government to enter the drinks business. In short, once the government gets in, it is very hard to get it out no matter how badly it performs.

Maryland has a local control law that gives counties great discretion in deciding how they want to regulate alcoholic beverages. Montgomery County uses this authority with unabashed gusto. Its Department of Liquor Control, whose very name is telling, operates in two of the three tiers of the drinks system. The DLC has a monopoly on liquor retail sales, and it also is the sole wholesaler for beers, spirits, and wines. No other Maryland county government, excepting Somerset, has so deeply sunk itself into the drinks business.

So, if you want to buy a bottle of liquor, you must trek to one of the DLC’s liquor stores. If you operate a restaurant or run a store that sells drinks, you must purchase your drinks from the DLC.

Which is a nightmare.

Greta Weber of the Washingtonian recently detailed the sort of debacles that are commonplace.

In the last week of 2015, a familiar disaster struck Brickside Food & Drink in Bethesda. The culprit: the Department of Liquor Control. From two days before Christmas until two days before New Year’s Eve, the DLC — an 80-year-old government entity that maintains a monopoly on the county’s alcohol supply — missed its deliveries to Brickside, shorting the Woodmont Triangle eatery by more than ten kegs of beer and about 50 cases of wine, liquor, and bottled beer.”\
Some 50 other businesses had the same problem that week. How did this happen? A “clerical error” by the DLC. They just mis-tallied how much product they were to deliver. Which is exactly the sort of mistake that one regularly makes when one is a monopolist.

DLC’s director resigned, but the crummy service continues, Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Magazine reports:

Pinky Rodgers, co-owner of Pinky & Pepe’s Grape Escape in the Kentlands, took issue with comments from county officials that the department’s operations have been improving since it began implementing an action plan about a year ago. The department controls the wholesale distribution of alcohol and the retail sale of all liquor in the county. In the past 30 days, eight of the nine deliveries to her business have had problems that ranged from incomplete orders to broken bottles and moldy boxes, she said. Rodgers also brought photos of rusty DLC delivery trucks that she says leak, resulting in the delivery of soggy packages to her business.
A DLC executive responded to Rodgers’ complaints, “I apologize if there are actual issues but our data doesn’t show that.” The DLC went on to claim 85 percent of its deliveries were just fine. No private company in a competitive market could cock up 15 percent (about one out of every six or seven) of its deliveries and stay in business long.

Thanks to DLC’s shabby business practices, Montgomery County’s residents often cross into the District to buy drinks. This is why the DLC liquor store on the border of DC was shuttered — because it lost money. Per capita liquor sales in the county are 33 percent below the nationwide average, but the District’s sales are twice the national average, according to an analysis by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Selling and distributing beer, wine, and spirits, essayist Martin Morse Wooster rightly notes, is not a proper function of the government. And plenty of voters in Montgomery County want the government out of the business.

But the DLC endures. For decades one politician after another has tried unsuccessfully to ease the government out of the drinks business. Reform efforts continually fail because DLC’s unionized government employees lobby to keep the monopoly (and their jobs). The county government’s long-serving executive, Democrat Ike Leggett, opposes privatization and claims financial doom will ensue because the DLC turns a profit of $30 million which is used to keep up roads and schools. (Note: the $34.4 million the DLC provided in FY2016 amounts to 0.7 percent of the county’s $5 billion operating budget.)

All of which means the county’s 800 restaurants and drinks retailers and 700,000 or so residents who can legally drink remain stuck with this Soviet dinosaur until they vote in reformists.
Posted by: nacho
« on: March 04, 2016, 11:48:26 AM »

And...the DLC wins. Also, this guy's mom abused me when I was a kid.

A state bill that could have led to the end of Montgomery County’s alcohol monopoly is dead for this year after it was withdrawn from consideration by this year’s General Assembly.

Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) Thursday withdrew his bill calling for a referendum to allow voters to decide the fate of the county government’s monopoly on the distribution of all alcohol and the retail sale of all liquor.

“We didn’t have the votes so it seemed the most constructive way forward is to work with the county executive,” Frick said Friday morning, referring to County Executive Ike Leggett’s plan to create a task force to study possible ways to privatize the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC). “I didn’t want to put it to a vote and force people who have mixed feelings about it to commit against it… I’d rather hold off now and hopefully win them over before next year.”

Frick’s bill seemed to gain momentum after it was proposed in October. Local restaurateurs and small beer and wine shop owners frustrated with the problem-plagued DLC lined up to support it. The Washington Post also mentioned the bill as a possible solution to the county’s liquor control issues in a December editorial that called for the end of the unique monopoly.

County officials, including all but one County Council member and Leggett, cautioned that ending the county’s monopoly would force the closure of the DLC. The officials warned that the loss of the department’s more than $30 million in annual profit could affect the county’s capital budget and school construction projects because the funds are used to back more than $100 million in county bonds. They lobbied hard against the bill and were joined by the local labor union—UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO—representing more than 350 DLC employees. Union workers regularly attended key meetings surrounding the issue, wearing bright yellow T-shirts.

On Feb. 26, dozens of DLC employees appeared at the county’s House delegation meeting in Annapolis,  where the delegation’s members decided not to vote on proposed legislation concerning the DLC and instead voted to send a letter to Leggett instructing him to set up a task force to study the department’s problems and how to fix them.

Leggett had previously sent a letter to the presidents of four local Chambers of Commerce in January that said he would support the creation of an expedited task force to develop possible privatization options—but only if its recommendations address the financial issues faced by the county. The task force’s work could result in legislation proposed before the 2017 General Assembly session, which begins in January. Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for Leggett, said Thursday the task force is in the works, but there’s currently no timeline for setting it up.

Frick also withdrew a bill that would have enabled the county to sell off its DLC retail stores, warehouse inventory and beer distribution franchise rights as well as a provision to direct sales tax revenue back to local jurisdictions. Frick introduced that bill to attempt to address the revenue shortfalls the county could face if the DLC were unable to compete with private distributors without the monopoly in place.

Frick, however, encouraged those interested in significant change in the county’s alcohol policy to continue to follow the process.

“I know there are a lot of consumers interested in changes,” Frick said. “I need them to stay engaged. If we’re going to prevail, we need those folks to be committed and communicate with their elected officials and stay vocal, because that’s an essential part of the process.”
Posted by: nacho
« on: January 30, 2016, 11:32:18 AM »

The Director of the DLC just got dumped, and state legislators are wading into the fight on the side of the anti-DLC people. This looks like it may happen.
Posted by: nacho
« on: November 29, 2015, 09:20:00 AM »

This is turning into a brutal battle.

Also, William Frick's mom worked with my mom to convince me that I was going to be abducted by aliens when I was 8 years old.

Montgomery County has been in the alcohol business since Prohibition ended in 1933. And business has been very good for Maryland’s most populous county.

It makes about $22 million a year as the exclusive wholesaler of adult beverages. That means the restaurant where you’re having a drink or the store you visit for beer and wine is required by law to buy its products from the county’s Department of Liquor Control. If you’re looking for a bottle of Jack Daniels or Stolichnaya and don’t want to travel outside the county your destination will be one of 25 county-owned retail liquor outlets.

But the long, lucrative monopoly could be coming to an end. A bill sponsored by Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) would ask voters to decide, through a referendum on the county’s 2016 ballot, whether establishments that sell alcohol can bypass the liquor control department to buy directly from private distributors. State Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) has said he intends to file similar legislation for the upcoming General Assembly session.

Frick and Franchot said they are responding to years of complaints from consumers and businesses about liquor control’s late deliveries and limited supply. While the agency has no trouble moving plenty of Miller Light and Kendall Jackson from its Gaithersburg warehouse to customers, owners say, it takes too long with fine wines and increasingly popular craft beers.

[Franchot op-ed calls for end to “Prohibition-style” monopoly]

The lack of availability, poor service and high county markups drive customers — and their dollars — to neighboring jurisdictions, such as the District or Virginia, detractors contend. State data shows Montgomery County with significantly lower per-capita rates of alcohol consumption than neighboring Howard, Prince George’s and Frederick counties. That’s not because Montgomery residents are uncommonly abstemious, those in the industry argue.

“I can’t run a business properly if I don’t know what’s coming and when it’s coming. And the prices are uncompetitively high,” said Justin McInerny, owner of Capital Beer and Wine in Bethesda. “Someone comes in and says they have a rehearsal dinner in six weeks and they have to have this wine that they drank when they met. Six weeks later, it doesn’t show up.”

Frick called the system “a relic” that has reached last call. “It’s a system that isn’t serving the public. For a top-flight market, we should have top-flight service,” he said.

A public hearing on the bill is scheduled Monday evening in County Council chambers in Rockville.

Liquor control director George Griffin acknowledges the problems but said there have been significant improvements in the past eight to 10 months.

The proposed bill has also touched off a larger political scuffle involving big money, union jobs and accusations of conflicts of interest.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and nearly all County Council members contend that revenue loss resulting from privatization would be ruinous. It also would effectively put the liquor control department out of business, endangering more than 250 union-wage jobs for members of the politically influential United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 (MCGEO), who work in the warehouse and retail stores.

Leggett said last week that he is not opposed to getting out of the liquor business, as long as there is a plan to make the county whole.

[Why fallout from Wynne decision will fall hardest on Montgomery]

“And no plan has come forward. I think there is an irresponsibility on the part of some who say, ‘We can just make that up.’ No, we can’t just make that up,” said Leggett, citing new drains on the county budget, including millions of dollars in income tax refunds it faces as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the C0mptroller v. Wynne case. The court ruled 5 to 4 that some Maryland residents with out-of-state earnings had been illegally double-taxed under state law.

About a third of the states, including Virginia, exert some form of direct control over the distribution and sale of alcohol. But Montgomery County is an outlier in Maryland, the legacy of a powerful local temperance movement.

Montgomery went dry in the late 19th century, and after the repeal of Prohibition, the state legislature established the basis for the county’s regulatory system.

As late as 1955, hard liquor was available only in country clubs and a handful of restaurants, according to the Montgomery County Historical Society.

In the view of civic leaders who aspired to see the county grow into a prosperous suburb, tight control of alcohol was a must.

“We think of our county as a bedroom community rather than a center of revelry,” William R. McCaullum, president of the Allied Civic Group, explained in 1962.

That elite consensus remained largely undisturbed until a couple of years ago, when county leaders, concerned about the higher concentrations of younger residents in Arlington and the District, started looking for ways to goose Montgomery’s placid night life.

A task force that included Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) recommended a series of measures, including legislation seeking state permission to modify liquor laws so that bars and restaurants could buy “special order” items — rare wines, craft beers — from private wholesalers.

[Montgomery County looks to get hip]

The council voted in July to seek state action. But an unintended consequence was renewed interest among county businesses and industry groups in pushing for full privatization.

Frick’s bill has frustrated county officials. Liquor money supports more than $100 million in revenue bonds issued for road construction and other services. If revenue flowing from the liquor control department dries up, the county must find other funds for an estimated $11 million in annual interest payments. Revenue bondholders could sue for breach of contract, the county’s bond counsel warned.

Proponents argue that a $30 million loss can surely be absorbed by a $5 billion annual operating budget. But Leggett points out that more than 80 percent of that money is already earmarked for schools, police and fire protection, and debt service. He has warned that he is likely to include a major property tax increase in his next proposed budget this spring.

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), who served with Riemer on an ad hoc committee that studied county liquor control, said the bill amounts to a brazen money grab.

“If these are Republicans doing this, dismantling something in government that actually made money and then handing it over to the private sector, I’d get that,” he said. “But these are not Republicans. This is just beyond the pale to me.”

Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), the lone member in support of Frick’s bill, said the current system imposes a significant hidden tax on Montgomery consumers and ultimately hampers the county economy.

“I ask myself three fundamental questions,” Berliner said. “Is this a core government responsibility? Do we perform it well? And is it in our best interest long term? And I believe the answer to all three is an emphatic ‘No.’ ”

Questions have also been raised about the influence of the liquor industry on county and state officials. David Trone, co-owner of Total Wine and More, the huge Bethesda-based retailer, is a major contributor to Democrats, including Franchot. A study this year by the Center for Public Integrity found that alcohol distributors employed at least 315 registered lobbyists at the state level nationwide.

Opponents of Frick’s bill have also pointed out that his wife, Bethany Frick, is a national accounts vice president for international liquor giant Diageo, which makes Johnny Walker, Crown Royal and other major brands. The couple’s financial disclosure forms show holdings of at least $20,000 in Diageo North America stock.

MCGEO President Gino Renne called last week for an investigation by the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, contending that Frick would directly benefit from passage of his bill. State Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), chairman of the committee, declined to comment Friday, citing a policy of not discussing matters pending before the panel.

Frick said Renne’s allegations, based on his own financial disclosures, are without merit.

“The entrenched interests can’t defend this system on the merits so they are trying to use intimidation and baseless personal attacks to preserve the status quo,” Frick said. “The voters deserve to be heard.”
Posted by: monkey!
« on: August 02, 2015, 04:15:24 PM »

In a couple of days I'll be in a German beer heaven.
Posted by: nacho
« on: July 14, 2015, 10:49:01 PM »

Well...our greatest champion against the DLC just fucked up:

Update - 5:50 p.m. - State Del. Ariana Kelly was arrested last month in Bethesda and charged with indecent exposure and trespassing, according to online court records.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that charging documents state Kelly, 38, was dropping off her children at the home of her ex-husband, Barak Sanford, when she became angry that Sanford’s fiancée was inside the home.

At that time, according to the Post report, Kelly started ringing the doorbell repeatedly and banging on the door. The paper reported a charging document states Sanford “played a cell phone video for police that showed Kelly ringing the doorbell ‘numerous times,’ exposing her breasts in the direction of Sanford’s cell phone camera, and then ‘with one breast in each hand [shaking] them up and down.’”

Responding police asked Kelly to leave, according to the report, but she asked them to arrest her.

Kelly, when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said she couldn't comment on the case and directed questions to her attorney.

Kelly’s attorney, former State Del. Luiz Simmons, told Bethesda Beat Tuesday afternoon that Kelly plans to dispute the allegations in court.

“Ariana is vigorously disputing the allegations,” Simmons said. “We will be in court in the next month. Divorce is very painful and punishing, even for members of the General Assembly. This arose out of a private dispute between Ariana and her ex-husband... and unfortunately it’s now where it is.”

Kelly and Sanford divorced in Nov. 2014, according to online court records.

Kelly was reelected for one of three District 16 delegate seats last year. The Bethesda native has served the area as a delegate since 2011.

Del. Shane Robinson, the chair of the Montgomery County House delegation, said he is supporting his colleague. Kelly was elected as the delegation's caucus chair when Robinson was chosen for the chair position in December.

"From my perspective," Robinson said, "it's a private family matter and I expect it's going to be resolved appropriately."

Robinson said the initial reports about the case lack context about Kelly's divorce from Sanford.

"It's a very private matter we're talking about," Robinson said. "Readers have no background on any of that information, I think that's the unfortunate thing."

He said Kelly has been a strong advocate for Maryland families in the General Assembly and called the charges "a distraction."

"I think she's an excellent person that has Maryland families at heart and has done a lot of work in the legislature to advance our goals of making this state a better place for families and children," Robinson said. "She's a great member, she's done a lot of good work and for me that's hugely important."
Posted by: nacho
« on: July 01, 2015, 12:05:40 PM »

That's okay. I'm going to stop trying to argue my points or presenting ideas and just talk about how horrible Falling Skies is from now on.
Posted by: RottingCorpse
« on: July 01, 2015, 11:13:15 AM »

I can't find a South Park "It doesn't read!" clip.
Posted by: nacho
« on: July 01, 2015, 08:52:32 AM »

By the way, in the rest of Maryland you can buy beer, wine, liquor at any liquor store any day of the week.

But not grocery stores or convenience stores.

Wait so it's just the elites Bethesda Lifestyle people who run the planet Earth that enforce weird Draconian booze laws?!

That's what I've been saying! It's Montgomery County only!

 I find Virginia's liquor control laws to be far more insidious and controlling than Maryland (excepting Montgomery County, which is just skewed generally).

You're not arguing that Maryland is some socialist Utopia, are you? If you mean Orwellian socialist, I might give it to you.

They have more prohibitory laws on the books than any other state in the union, including all their stupid booze laws.

Also worth noting is that, in Maryland, only Montgomery County does this.

Etc... I've noted this in almost every post on this topic.
Posted by: RottingCorpse
« on: June 30, 2015, 05:21:47 PM »

Wait so it's just the elites Bethesda Lifestyle people who run the planet Earth that enforce weird Draconian booze laws?!
Posted by: Reginald McGraw
« on: June 30, 2015, 05:13:17 PM »

By the way, in the rest of Maryland you can buy beer, wine, liquor at any liquor store any day of the week.

But not grocery stores or convenience stores.
Posted by: nacho
« on: June 30, 2015, 12:07:09 PM »

However, when it come stop to beer and wine the regulations are far more lax, and that's ultimately my point here. Hell, I lived in SS and getting beer was a pain in the ass. In Va I can walk into any grocery store, 7-11, or kid's clothing store with a liquor license and pick up a six pack and a bottle of cabernet.

And that's what's changing. This weekend, actually, is the one-year celebration of the first bricks in that wall being smashed. By next year, the wall will be down. You can buy beer and wine at any number of non-DLC outlets now, and you can get a vodka gimlet whenever you want. My money is on the DLC being entirely dismantled by the end of 2016.
Posted by: RottingCorpse
« on: June 30, 2015, 11:55:35 AM »

Virginia's ABC is a larger, much more dynamic (and state-wide) beast than MoCo's sad little DLC. The ABC has a stricter and more punishing hold on liquor licenses and operates under the same language as Moco's DLC. Unlike in Maryland, the ABC employs armed special police and works closely with the state police. I find Virginia's liquor control laws to be far more insidious and controlling than Maryland (excepting Montgomery County, which is just skewed generally).

When it comes to hard liquor, the VA ABC is indeed pretty damned Draconian. You want a vodka gimlet on a Sunday? Good luck, my friend. That comes from prohibition thinking too. When western VA and the rest of Appalachia was moonshine still central. Also I feel like VA has that weird teetotaling Jesus cult that is a little bit restrained in Maryland. As a whole, Maryland is far more politically liberal than Virginia. I mean it's not even close. I'm insulated from it because I live in NoVA. So yes, when it comes to hard liquor. VA is pretty stupid.

However when it comes to beer and wine, the regulations are far more lax, and that's ultimately my point here. Hell, I lived in SS and getting beer was a pain in the ass. In Va I can walk into any grocery store, 7-11, or kid's clothing store with a liquor license and pick up a six pack and a bottle of cabernet.
Posted by: nacho
« on: June 30, 2015, 11:38:58 AM »

Yeah, Maryland's weird.

And don't get me started on traffic cameras! Did you know the bulk of the fines go to the corporation that owns the camera and not the cops? That should be illegal!

Now, I find your Commonwealth reply mystifying. Virginia's ABC is a larger, much more dynamic (and state-wide) beast than MoCo's sad little DLC. The ABC has a stricter and more punishing hold on liquor licenses and operates under the same language as Moco's DLC. Unlike in Maryland, the ABC employs armed special police and works closely with the state police. I find Virginia's liquor control laws to be far more insidious and controlling than Maryland (excepting Montgomery County, which is just skewed generally).

Craft brewing is not outlawed in MoCo, nor is it actively discouraged. The DLC's nefariousness comes in the form of controlling distribution. And, again, that was a misstep that has resulted in closer government scrutiny and will probably prove their undoing.