Credit: Official Photo,

State Comptroller Peter Franchot Wednesday called on Bethesda-area business leaders to lead an effort to privatize the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Montgomery County.

Speaking at a meeting of the board of directors of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, Franchot said he believes such an effort is “totally winnable,” although it’s “totally unwinnable if you just go to your elected officials.”

The county is one of the few jurisdictions in the country that controls both the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages to consumers and restaurants.  The current system has strong political support because the system produces approximately $25 million a year in revenue for the county.

Franchot, a Takoma Park resident, said he believes the lost revenue would be offset by increased economic activity.  The comptroller said that he would be willing to have his office conduct a study on the revenue impact of privatization, and he urged the business leaders to “pool resources” to conduct an economic impact study. He wondered if there would be a way to “phase in” a new system.

“I could see within a year we could have a lot of momentum built up to change this, ” he said. “I want us to get where the public and the rest of the country is on this.”

Bethesda Magazine wrote a story about the county’s control of alcohol sales in the May/June issue.