Balto. Co. Panel Suggests Liquor License Changes

October 13, 2011

A Baltimore County task force examining how liquor licenses are issued to restaurants is preparing to submit recommendations to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz next month.

At a meeting Thursday, the task force agreed to recommend some changes to the way restaurants get licenses, but not all the details of their plan are worked out.

The task force plans to recommend increasing the number of restaurant licenses a person or corporation can hold, from six licenses to 12. They will suggest eliminating a requirement that a license seeker gather signatures from 10 people within a mile of the business.

The task force has also decided to suggest that new licenses issued after a certain date should not be able to be transferred, except through the sale or relocation of a business.

The task force has not agreed on whether to recommend creating a new type of wine and beer license for restaurants. Another issue still up for discussion is whether all existing licenses should eventually lose their ability to be transferred.

Kamenetz announced the task force in August, saying changes to the license system could encourage economic development by expanding the restaurant sector. State legislators would have to approve any changes to the license laws.

Licenses are now issued based on the population of the county’s election districts. The task force on Thursday discussed how the county could distribute licenses throughout the county to make them available in revitalization areas.

Licenses can cost more than $100,000 when a restaurant owner buys one from a current license holder. People who have paid large amounts for the licenses fear that changes to the current system will devalue their investments.

The group — made up of county officials, developers and representatives of the business community — meets every Thursday at 10 a.m. and plans to submit its recommendations to Kamenetz by Nov. 15.

-Alison Knezevich

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