Nine Maryland delegates have signed on to a proposal that would clear the way for Total Wine and More, a Bethesda-based retailer co-owned by Potomac businessman David Trone, to open a store in Montgomery County.
The drafted bill would create a local loophole in a state law barring individuals and businesses from holding more than one Class A license permitting retail sales of beer, wine and liquor.
Del. Charles Barkley (D-Germantown), who brought forward the legislation, said it doesn’t seem fair that existing rules prevent Total Wine from opening a retail location in the county it has picked as its corporate home. David and Robert Trone, the two brothers who own Total Wine, have already hit the state license maximum, since one holds the permit for a Towson store and the other for a Laurel location.
“I felt like it was only right that they be allowed to have a store in Montgomery County,” Barkley said.
Total Wine, which opened its first location in 1991, has grown to become the nation’s largest family-owned retailer for fine wine and beer and runs 149 stores in 20 states. Co-owner David Trone earlier this year poured millions of his own money into an unsuccessful bid for Congress.
The proposal Barkley aims to introduce during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January would enable the holder of a Class A license in Maryland to secure a second one for a location inside Montgomery County. Last year, Barkley pushed to raise the license limit to two per person or corporation; the effort died in a legislative committee amid pushback from small retailers looking to protect their turf from chains, he said.
However, a proposal specific to Montgomery County might encounter less opposition, the delegate said.
The delegation will listen to public comment on the bill at a hearing slated for 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Montgomery County Council building in Rockville. Next, the group’s economic development committee is expected to consider the legislation and vote on it early in the state legislative session that begins Jan. 11. If the lawmakers get behind the proposal, they will introduce it as a delegation bill.
Relaxing the license limits is a business-friendly move that would benefit consumers by increasing competition, Total Wine spokesman Ed Cooper said.
“Those businesses that are capable of evolving and changing continue to do really well,” he said.
The company wants to launch a store in the county, although it doesn’t have a specific site in mind, Cooper added.
County residents account for about 20 percent of the customer traffic at Total Wine stores in Laurel and McLean, Virginia, the company reports.
Last year, Total Wine moved its 500-employee headquarters from Cabin John Shopping Center on Tuckerman Lane in Potomac to a 100,000-square foot space on Rockledge Drive. Though the move was local, company leaders had considered leaving the state, in part because of license restrictions, Cooper said.
In Virginia, which doesn’t have a license cap, the company operates 19 locations, he added.
Though informally dubbed the “Total Wine” bill, Barkley’s proposal would also apply to other beer and wine stores interested in opening a second location in the county.
He believes the county’s legislative delegation to Annapolis will get behind the proposal. Eight other Mongtomery County delegates – Kumar Barve, Kathleen Dumais, David Fraser-Hidalgo, Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly, Aruna Miller, Kirill Reznik and Jeff Waldstreicher – have added their names to the measure, and more have voiced support, he said. The Montgomery County Council has also endorsed the proposal.