Restaurants in Montgomery County may now sell beer and wine for takeout and delivery.
The county’s liquor board Wednesday morning approved a change that will temporarily allow “on-premise” restaurants to sell beer and wine for “off premise” use.
The county’s Alcohol Beverage Services department asked the board to make the change on Tuesday to help restaurants forced to close Monday to stop the spread of coronavirus. Under the order of Gov. Larry Hogan, restaurants may continue to provide food for takeout and delivery.
Many restaurant owners have said they could be forced to go out of business, if the closures last a long time.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to keep people in business,” said Robert Dorfman, director of the county’s Alcohol Beverage Services department.
Under the new regulation, restaurants may sell beer and wine for takeout and delivery, as long as the alcoholic beverages are sold with food and are in their original containers. Draft beer may be sold in growlers. Hard liquor is excluded.
“We’re going to have to take a leap of faith that people will do this responsibly,” Dorfman said.
The new regulation will affect about 800 restaurants in the county that hold liquor licenses.
For delivery orders that include beer and wine, restaurants will have to deliver the orders themselves and won’t be able to use delivery services such as DoorDash and Grubhub. State law prohibits delivery services from handling alcohol, according to Kathie Durbin, division chief, licensure, regulation and education at ABS, who spearheaded ABS’ efforts to allow off-premises sales.
Ronnie Heckman, the owner of Caddie’s on Cordell in Bethesda, said Tuesday that allowing restaurants to sell beer and wine off premises could make a big difference.
“This could hold us over and save us for a little bit,” Heckman said. “I certainly know that I have a loyal clientele that will buy beer from us. They’re already going to be getting dinner, why not get a six-pack from us at the same time?”
Heckman praised ABS for moving quickly to help restaurants. “I think they’ve done a really good job addressing this properly and promptly, especially for a group that gets a lot of criticism,” he said.
ABS has already waived the 80-cent per bottle fee that restaurants have to pay if they buy wine or spirits from one of the 25 ABS liquor stores in the county. Restaurants don’t have to pay the fee if they order in bulk from the ABS warehouse.
On Tuesday, the county’s Board of License Commissioners, or liquor board, approved a change that allows independent beer and wine stores and breweries to sell off premises and to deliver.