Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is eyeing five new locations to open retail liquor stores in the county.
At least one of those locations is in Bethesda, according to the department’s presentation to the County Council’s liquor control committee Friday. The retail store in Bethesda would replace the existing store in Chevy Chase, according to the presentation notes. The Chevy Chase store has reported losses of more than $200,000 in one year and the lease on the space ends in May.
Two other retail liquor stores would be in the City of Rockville, where negotiations for both sites are ongoing. DLC director George Griffin said Friday negotiations are close to being completed for those sites.
Two other sites the department is considering are either under construction by a developer or are currently leased to other tenants. On Monday, Griffin said he couldn’t provide specific addresses for those potential locations because the county has not signed leases for the properties.
“We’re looking at all available commercial retail space in places where there’s not a close proximity to an existing store,” Griffin said. “We need more stores in the county.”
The five stores are being developed after an in-depth look at DLC’s sales by a County Council committee found that operating more stores represented an opportunity to meet consumer demand and increase the department’s revenue. The department is working with a consultant to give the stores a modern look.
Griffin said the department had hoped to open at least one store before the holidays, but may not meet that deadline. He said one store will very likely be open in the first quarter of 2016, with the rest opening by July.
“I think the council in particular is pushing the idea to open new stores,” Griffin said. “They’re looking at the potential for revenue generation.”
The county operates 25 retail liquor stores, which are the only locations in the county that sell liquor. The stores also offer wine and beer, but compete for customers in that market with privately owned stores. The county last opened new liquor stores—in Seneca Meadows and Clarksburg—a little over a year ago, Griffin said.
Currently there are three stores in Rockville—two on Rockville Pike and one in Fallsgrove. There’s also two stores in Bethesda—one in Westbard and the other on Hampden Lane near Bethesda Row.
One thing the new stores won’t have is chilled beer. Griffin said state law prohibits the county stores from selling cold beer, a concession he said was granted to the privately owned stores in the county. The DLC is the wholesaler for those stores and Griffin said the department isn’t interested in possibly hurting their business by pursuing a change in the law.
Current county liquor store locations. Map via Montgomery County DLC website