Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has tapped an experienced businessman to lead the county’s controversial Department of Liquor Control (DLC).
Leggett announced Monday he has selected Robert M. Dorfman to lead the DLC, which controls the wholesale distribution of alcohol and the retail sale of liquor in the county.
Dorfman, a North Potomac resident, will be responsible for overseeing the department that generates about $280 million in annual sales and brings in about $30 million in annual profit—$20 million of which is transferred to the county’s general fund, while the other $10 million is used to pay off outstanding bonds.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” Dorfman, 66, said in an interview with Bethesda Beat Monday. “This is a perfect fit for me. I enjoy taking on the challenge of assessing businesses from a number of standpoints. I think this is one of those opportunities I can take a lot of pride in.”
He said his main goal will be to make the DLC a “stronger, more valuable department” for customers and the county. He starts in the new role at the end of January.
The DLC has been criticized over the past two years by restaurateurs and beer and wine shop owners for delivery and customer service problems, as well as for the pricing of certain products. The previous director, George Griffin, resigned last January, a month after the department admitted it missed deliveries during the busy holiday season, causing alcohol shortages at several local restaurants.
Fariba Kassiri, who has been acting director of the DLC since Griffin left, will return to her previous role of assistant chief administrative officer, according to county spokesman Patrick Lacefield.
Dorfman has been a partner and franchisee managing World of Beer locations in Northern Virginia for the past three years, according to his LinkedIn account. He said he recently sold the business, but the experience gave him “a good base of understanding” about the beer and alcohol business.
Prior to that, Dorfman served as president of TrustHouse Services Group, a contract food service management company, for one year. From 2005 to 2012 he owned and operated 35 Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants in Florida, Ohio and Texas as chairman, president and CEO of TCH Restaurant Group before selling the business in November 2012.
Prior to owning and operating the Five Guys business, Dorfman spent 14 years as an executive at Host International, the former Marriott subsidiary that managed food, beverage and duty-free retail operations in airports. Dorfman graduated from Rutgers University in 1972 and has an MBA from St. Johns University, according to his LinkedIn account.
The county will pay him $220,000 per year, according to Lacefield.
“Bob Dorfman has been a success wherever he worked,” Leggett said in a statement. “He is just the leader we need to bring private sector experience to the Department of Liquor Control.”
Dorfman, who has been a county resident for 30 years, said he aims to end an ongoing debate over whether to privatize the department by improving its operations.
“I want to understand the needs of customers and properly address them in a responsible way,” Dorfman said.