2020 | Government

Montgomery delegation backs bill to reimburse, waive alcohol license fee

Lawmakers also consider bills on tax abatement, school pilot program

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The Montgomery County Delegation meets virtually on Jan. 22, 2021.

Businesses would get a break under a bill to reimburse alcoholic beverage license fees and waiving late fees for the current fiscal year.

The bill, requested by Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Burtonsville), was unanimously approved by the Montgomery County delegation on Friday morning.

The legislation specifically covers businesses with on-premise alcohol licenses, allowing them to serve at the business.

It would provide a 50% refund for businesses that sell alcoholic beverages for both on- and off-premise consumption.

The bill originally gave the county the authority to reimburse the fees and waive them for the next fiscal year.

But county officials requested an amendment for the state to require the reimbursement for current fiscal year fees and give the county the option to waive them for the upcoming fiscal year.

Del. Lily Qi (D-North Potomac), chair of the delegation’s Economic Development Committee, said the county requested the amendment to make it easier to administer the refund if it is required. The county also recommended that the late fees be waived.

During a discussion of the bill on Jan. 15, County Council Member Andrew Friedson spoke to in favor of it to the delegation.

“One of the challenges the county has had is a lot of these relief packages are very difficult to administer and the county is really not set up to move as quickly as we’ve been asked to move in this crisis in so many different ways, including these grant programs,” he said. “The beauty of this proposal — and I’ve been pushing for these types of efforts — is it doesn’t require significant administration. It actually eliminates the bureaucracy for businesses. It provides relief without the paperwork.”

To provide even modest relief is critical, Friedson said.

Lynn Martin, owner of Seibel’s Restaurant in Burtonsville, told the delegation on Jan. 15 that every bit helps.

The restaurant’s liquor sales are down 90% for the year . In an average month, liquor sales would be around $40,000, but the restaurant is not even hitting $1,000 a month in the sales, she said.

“Liquor sales is part of how we make our money …,” she said, adding that her liquor license fee is $2,500. “That’s a huge number. Right now, that’s one week’s sales. I hate to even say that. Any help we get would be good help.”

On Friday, two additional bills, both requested by state Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Kensington), were introduced for the delegation’s consideration.

The first would allow county officials to abate any overdue property tax on dwelling houses owned by disabled active-duty service members, disabled veterans, or surviving spouses who qualify for a certain property tax exemption.

The second would establish a School Site Council Pilot Program in the county. The program would require each public school to have a school site council to create a school plan for student achievement and school improvement.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.