Tuesday, February 6, 2024

MD Retailers Association revives effort to allow beer, wine sales in Maryland grocery stores

MRA poster inside Harris Teeter

One of the biggest shocks to the system many new residents of Montgomery County experience, is the moment they learn they cannot purchase beer or wine at their local grocery store or convenience store. They quickly become familiar with Montgomery County's government monopoly on alcohol sales, and the archaic liquor laws of MoCo and Maryland. Restaurateurs and retailers frustrated with the status quo that reduces the profit margins of their businesses - and puts them at a disadvantage when competing against their rivals in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia - made a push to change these laws in the last decade. The effort ran out of steam when no significant media campaign or financial contributions were employed to directly boost the candidates for office who would vote to overturn the Prohibition-style system.

Now the Maryland Retailers Association is reviving the campaign with a new website, and posters such as the one seen above this week in County supermarkets. There is a lot of information and data on the website. It has an easy way to contact your elected officials to encourage them to modernize our liquor laws. Whether the effort will be any more successful than the last remains to be seen.

If the MRA and business owners don't write fat checks to the candidates who will vote to change the laws, and won't publicly endorse those candidates and send glossy mailers with a list of their names to every voter, the campaign will fail again. Most of the articles linked to on the website are from media outlets who strongly support the incumbents and candidates who favor and will preserve the ossified government liquor monopoly we have now. That's not exactly a smart way to propagandize the public in favor of liquor reform, folks.

Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich was prophetic about many things. He was savagely pilloried by local officials and the media during his time in office for supporting casinos and bus rapid transit. Both later became policy cornerstones of the Montgomery County and Maryland political machines of his most-venomous opponents. One other thing he used to say that has aged very well: Until business owners "get dangerous," and actually back candidates - Democratic, Republican, Green, independent - who will vote their way, nothing will change. The MRA has a nice website. But their campaign doesn't sound very "dangerous" yet.


  1. 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

  2. This would just lead to closures of multiple beer/wine stores in the county. Nothing but a net negative.

  3. How is this a negative if the prices are lower? The liquor stores have said previously they can't compete with the chains.

  4. Huh? I can buy beer and wine at my local Rockville grocery store. And there are something like 5 "beer wine deli" shops within walking distance.

    And of the 6 states I've lived in, none allowed liquor sales in grocery stores.

    It's true that Montgomery County has a monopoly on liquor sales. No idea about the rest of MD though.

    1. Each grocery chain can designate one store for beer and wine sales, so your grocery store would either be that designee, or the only of its brand in the county. I think at one point, Giant had designated their Olney store as their one location that sold beer and wine, for example. The deli shops fall under this provision, as well, as they are likely mom-and-pop stores and not chains with multiple locations.