Arguing the measure would help keep alcohol sales tax revenue in Maryland, District 18 Del. Al Carr has introduced a bill that would allow beer and wine sales at the Costco location in Wheaton.
Carr, who lives in Kensington, will present House Bill 931 in Monday afternoon’s House Economic Matters Committee meeting. The committee will be taking up many alcohol-related bills during what’s known as “Alcohol Day” in Annapolis.
The bill would establish a beer and wine license for warehouse stores, with the goal of encouraging Montgomery County residents to shop for bulk alcohol purchases at the Wheaton Costco as opposed to the Costco location in Washington, D.C., or stores including Total Wine & More in McLean, Virginia.
It would set up a minimum purchase of one case of wine or one case of beer per customer.
“Montgomery County officials have been talking quite a bit recently about ways to improve the distribution of alcohol. Ordinary citizens are not as focused on the mechanics of the [county’s] Department of Liquor Control or the wholesale market but are looking for more retail convenience,” Carr said Monday. “This bill strikes the right balance. It recaptures some of the tax revenue currently leaving the state while protecting our valued local small businesses.”
Beer and wine sales at warehouse stores such as Costco are prohibited in Maryland.
Carr’s measure is tailored to allow beer and wine purchases only at the Costco store at Westfield Wheaton mall and only if the wholesaler gives up its goal of building a gas station at the location. Costco lost a protracted zoning and legal battle against Kensington residents for permission to build a large gas station at its Wheaton store, but is still pursuing the idea.
The measure also creates a warehouse beer and wine license for stores within 10 miles of the state line, located within a state-designated Enterprise Zone and without a gas station.
The proposal comes as state lawmakers from the county ponder how to move forward with the county’s unique control model for the distribution of alcohol and retail sale of liquor.
A bill that would set up a referendum on ending the county’s alcohol monopoly wasn’t brought up for consideration during a Friday morning session of the county’s delegation. A competing bill to set up a task force to further examine the county’s distribution and sale of alcohol was also put off.
While defending the county’s monopoly over alcohol distribution and liquor sales, county officials have repeatedly said the No. 1 complaint they get about the system is the fact grocery stores can’t stock beer or wine—something that is a state law and out of the county’s control.