The Wicomico County Liquor Control Board distributes spirits in a manner which protects the standard of living in Wicomico County. The Board's operations reduce crime and alcohol abuse, respect religious observance, and reduce tax liability to Wicomico County Residents.
To the residents of Wicomico County,
Incomplete information has made its way into the public debate over the liquor dispensaries run by the Wicomico County Liquor Control Board. We'd like to address a few of these points:
The Board serves Wicomico County residents, but it isn't part of the county government.
Established by the State of Maryland in 1947, the Board distributes spirits in a
manner that protects the standard of living in Wicomico County. It does this by operating three of the four liquor stores in the county and a wholesale distributorship, while minimizing crime, keeping safe and attractive stores, and maximizing the profits it pays to Wicomico County each year. The Board is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate, and the Board wants to be as responsive as possible to residents and the County Council.
Wicomico taxpayers benefit this year from a $400,000 contribution made by the Board.
This contribution is profit from operation of the stores and wholesale distributorship.
This contribution has grown almost 60 percent in five years and will probably continue to grow.
The Liquor Board's contribution has risen to $400,000 in 2008 from $253,300 in 2004, an increase of almost 60 percent.
Replacing the Board's contribution may be difficult.
Opponents of the Liquor Board have been very vague in their proposals for replacing the board's contribution, and with good reason. Some restaurateurs have proposed a $5,000 increase per site license that would force small restaurants – with too little sales to afford the license -- to curtail serving liquor. Others want a graduated fee, presumably from $1,000 to $9,000. Why flirt with complicated systems that threaten to squelch competition and encourage higher drink prices? Why protect established restaurants and bars from new competitors? Liquor Dispensaries charge bars and restaurants only for what they use and preserve a level playing field that protects small and start-up businesses.
Restaurant owners are divided on the solution.
Restaurant and bar owners are not as united as some advocates would have the public believe.
A few may benefit so that all Wicomico County residents pay higher taxes.
The County Council could struggle – just as Dorchester County has – to replace the funds lost by closing the Liquor Dispensaries. If so, every resident would pay more in tax or receive less in service to replace the Liquor Dispensaries' lost contribution. That's a raw deal just to enrich owners of restaurants, bars and private liquor stores.
The Board's stores protect minors better than other outlets.
Wicomico County Liquor Licensing Board which regulates and monitors liquor licenses & sales has records of only two citations against the Liquor Dispensaries. There could have been other citations, perhaps before the records were being kept, but the fact is: There have been very few infractions during the Board’s 60 years of operations. We have a record of careful enforcement that Wicomico County residents can be proud of. As an example; the latest infraction came on a night when there were eight attempts, four by undercover police officers with no ID, to purchase alcohol. Store clerks confiscated four fake identification cards on that night. Store videotape shows that even the clerk who sold to an underage police cadet, had checked numerous identification cards earlier. His mistake cost the clerk his job and potentially a $1,000 criminal fine. The Board takes this error seriously, which is one reason that the organization has had very few infractions in 60 years.
The Board is initiating a “Keep It Safe” campaign to increase public awareness of alcohol abuse and community resources to combat it.
We look forward to improving our operations and continuing to return profits to benefit Wicomico County taxpayers.
Don Ewalt, Chairman
Wicomico County Liquor Control Board