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Rules on Md. alcohol sales relaxed amid virus restrictions

Bryan P. Sears//March 19, 2020

Rules on Md. alcohol sales relaxed amid virus restrictions

By Bryan P. Sears

//March 19, 2020

The 1623 Brewing Company participated in the Maryland Craft Beer Festival in Frederick in May 2019. (Submitted photo by Rachel Bradley)
The 1623 Brewing Company, shown here during its participating in the Maryland Craft Beer Festival in Frederick in May 2019. (Submitted photo by Rachel Bradley)

Maryland’s governor and top tax collector are making it easier to get an alcoholic beverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since Wednesday, both Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot have announced an easing of regulations and enforcements on alcohol sales to the public.

On Thursday, Hogan announced he would lift restrictions and allow bars, restaurants, wineries and distilleries to deliver alcohol. The lifting of those restrictions would be subject to local authorities.

Earlier this week the governor ordered bars and restaurants to close to dine-in patrons but allowed them to continue to serve food if they had a drive-thru window or if patrons carried food out or ordered for delivery.

But bar and restaurant operators say the orders have cut dramatically into their businesses. Restaurants near the State House in Annapolis that would have been bustling during the spring months and the 90-day legislative session were nearly empty.

“We’re doing this to help small businesses and restaurants and protect vulnerable people from having to leave home,” said Hogan. “But I want to urge people to be responsible and to avoid large crowds in stores.”

A day earlier, Franchot suspended the enforcement of limits on craft beer purchases.

“In light of the public health and economic crisis that our state is experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the severe financial losses that are being incurred by our local, independent businesses that can no longer serve customers on their premises, our agency is suspending its enforcement of these laws for the duration of Governor Hogan’s state of emergency,” Franchot said in a statement.

“Like restaurants, our state’s flourishing breweries and distilleries greatly depend on customers visiting their taprooms and tasting rooms to make ends meet. Given the necessary shutdown of these establishments, we’re lifting these arbitrary limits to generate more dollars so they can persevere during these tough times.”

Under existing law, customers are limited in the amount of craft beer or spirits that they can buy and take home.

Beer purchases are limited to 288 ounces or roughly two dozen 12-ounce cans. Purchases at a craft distilleries are limited to roughly three regular-sized bottles of hard liquor.

The limits, which apply to sales at the brewery and distillery, do not apply to purchases at retail stores.




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