Showing posts with label Department of Liquor Control. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Department of Liquor Control. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2023

Montgomery County-run liquor store burglarized in Rockville

Even Montgomery County government isn't immune to the ongoing crime wave in its jurisdiction. The Montgomery County government liquor store in the Rockville Town Center area was broken into early yesterday morning, December 7, 2023. A burglar alarm alerted Rockville City police to a break-in at Montgomery County Liquor & Wine at 300 N. Washington Street at 2:00 AM Thursday. Officers arriving at the scene found evidence of forced entry, and associated property damage to the building.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Montgomery County government liquor stores stop selling Russian vodka

The Montgomery County government monopoly liquor stores have stopped selling Russian-made spirits, the County announced in a press release on Sunday. Since the County is the only entity that can sell liquor in the jurisdiction, it is an effective ban on the sale of all imported Russian liquor products in Montgomery County "until further notice." The County statement indicated the move was "[i]n solidarity with the people of Ukraine." It is only one of many jurisdictions around the country attempting to boycott Russian products following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Shortly after the ban was issued, individual Montgomery County establishments began announcing they were dropping Russian vodka from their cocktail menus. Montgomery County-operated liquor stores will continue to sell alternative vodka brands such as Smirnoff (manufactured in Illinois, despite the name), Ciroc, Tito's, Absolut, Svedka, Grey Goose, SKYY, Ketel One, and New Amsterdam, the County press release said.

Photo courtesy Russian Standard Vodka

Monday, December 12, 2016

New Montgomery County Liquor Store opens in Rockville (Photos)

A new Montgomery County Liquor store has opened in the former Kam Sam Supermarket at 300 N. Washington Street in Rockville.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

MoCo threatens residents: Keep government liquor monopoly...or else! (Photos)

Signs tweeted by
Justin Fidler
Montgomery County's political machine is in full panic mode as public opposition to the County government's monopoly control of liquor increases in volume. Punches are being thrown, and landing. But new government signs printed at taxpayer expense are threatening those very taxpayers with "sky is falling" outcomes and punishments, should the unwashed masses dare to boot Big County Government out of the liquor business at the ballot box this November. This follows another taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to maintain the monopoly that I reported on just yesterday.

The County is even using schoolchildren as human shields, threatening to derail construction projects at Walt Whitman, Pyle, Ashburton, East Silver Spring, Greencastle, Montgomery Knolls, Pinecrest, Piney Branch, Woodlin, Christa McAuliffe and Col. E. Brooke Lee if voters reject the government liquor monopoly. This even as many of the same elected officials are clamoring to approve classroom-busting, high-density development in those same school clusters in the coming months. Oops.

What else will happen if you pursue your quest for better beer and wine lists, and the right to purchase Bud Light at CVS?

"Liquor stores on every corner," thunders the sign. 

Here's a good one - the monopoly actually touts its authority to keep certain liquor products it arbitrarily decides are a little too wild for you, the heavy-tax-paying adult, out of your hands. Boasting of its "power to exclude" certain products - now there's a heckuva way to convince residents that this is a good system. Just what we want: less choice, right?

They also made another gaffe in the process - they state that Montgomery County is only the second-best jurisdiction in Maryland when it comes to alcohol abuse and drunk-driving accidents. So we're not the healthiest in America, as our elected officials boasted? No, not even in the state, according to the County's own propaganda.

Councilmember George Leventhal tussled on Facebook with restaurateur Roberto Pietrobono (Gringos & Mariachis, Olazzo), who asked, "At what point in time would you be fed up if you were in our position as restaurant owners? For me it's been 15 years." Leventhal replied that he hoped the proposed "special orders" change would solve Pietrobono's woes.

Alas, as regular readers here already know, the "special orders" plan won't do that. It will allow the Department of Liquor Control to retain the power to declare which products are special order. It will allow the DLC to levy a tax on those new private liquor transactions, which as anyone who knows about business realizes, will raise the cost of product for consumers and hospitality businesses (of course, the County Council is not known for its vast knowledge of operating businesses). How does that make Montgomery County competitive with the District again?

Are you smart enough to decide the fate of liquor control in Montgomery County?

According to the Sentinel newspaper, Councilmember Leventhal says you aren't. Of Leventhal's opposition to a ballot referendum on the issue, the Sentinel reported "he did not think voters should decide whether to privatize alcohol because they would not understand how it would affect the county.

Leventhal posted that he thought only restaurant industry insiders were concerned about the County having monopoly control of liquor. But his colleague, Councilmember Hans Riemer, who also favors government retaining monopoly control, recently acknowledged the biggest complaint heard is the inability to buy beer and wine at grocery stores.

It's clear that the people have spoken. Now, will the politicians listen?

As a resident, is your current inability to buy Bud Light or a bottle of chardonnay at Giant, and your being forced to pay more for alcohol than those in the District, really "of little interest" to you?

Monday, January 4, 2016

MoCo Liquor stores hand out flyers to preserve monopoly, days after DLC delivery disaster (Photo)

Flyer being handed out, as
tweeted by Justin Fidler
Montgomery County-operated liquor stores are handing out literature to customers that threatens to raise their property taxes by "$100" if the County's Department of Liquor Control loses monopoly control over booze. The flyers state they have been printed by the County Office of Public Information, which is obviously funded by taxpayer money. What they don't state, is that just days ago, the DLC failed to make scheduled deliveries to restaurants, bars and beer-and-wine retailers at the height of the critical holiday season. More on that in a moment.

Of course, County Executive Ike Leggett has already stated his intention to raise taxes in the next budget, as the County Council's fiscal mismanagement over the last 14 years has created a structural deficit with no end in sight. And, no, raising taxes every year to cover ever-increasing spending is not a responsible record for a public official.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, who has posed as a critic of the liquor monopoly to promote himself through the local media, has ironically ended up defending the current regime along with seven of his colleagues. Roger Berliner, who represents District 1 on the Council, has declined to oppose new attempts to end the monopoly. Delegate Bill Frick - who like Berliner represents Bethesda, where bars and restaurants have been hurt by the current monopoly - has joined Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot in efforts in Annapolis to allow private competition within the county.

The flyer states that the current monopoly "doesn't cost taxpayers a single dime." Well, not only did these flyers cost the taxpayers, but the current County-controlled system requires both consumers and private businesses to pay more for liquor than they would in the District. So that statement is false.

Riemer's compromise, to allow competition for "special order" products, not only conveniently allows the DLC to define which products are "special orders," but would also allow the DLC to levy an arbitrary fee the consumer would end up paying - a tax, in other words. Tax? No wonder Riemer and the Council are for it!

But the flyers are essentially a gaffe for the County liquor regime, as they are being handed out mere days after yet another DLC holiday delivery disaster. As the Seventh State blog reported December 31, a DLC blunder resulted in missed deliveries to restaurants and bars between December 23-29. Don't worry, DLC Director George Griffin assured them, orders would be back on schedule by New Year's Eve. Oh, and there was a little matter of an order backlog... No big deal if you own a restaurant, bar or beer-and-wine store, right? - it's only one of your biggest times of the year during the holidays, after all.

This comes after the DLC was criticized last year for being unable to fill orders for items as basic as Maker's Mark during previous holiday seasons. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of County residents want government out of the liquor business, the benefits of high-quality retailers in competition with each other, and the simple ability to pick up Bud Light or a $9 wine bottle at the grocery store. Despite odd claims that the state is responsible for the current inability to do the latter, the reality is that requires the same sort of state-level law change in Annapolis that Riemer is seeking for his current plan. The only difference is that our elected officials aren't asking for it. Hmm...why is that?

This is not the first time we as taxpayers have been forced to pay for PR materials promoting a position the majority of residents oppose (Ambulance Fee, Bus Rapid Transit, anybody?). It should be the last.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fact-checking MoCo councilman's grandstanding on liquor "changes"

Riemer still mum on
whether he knew of
illegal activity in
County liquor dept.
prior to Election Day

There he goes again. Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, out of the news all summer and desperate for some press coverage, is grandstanding about his self-promoting campaign to change the County's role in controlling liquor sales and distribution.

Except...his equally-self-promoting "Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control" has left the county government squarely in control of liquor. Oops.

How do you like them hard apple ciders?

Remember, according to News4 (and we'll be getting back to the topic of News4 in a few moments):

"Council member Hans Riemer created the committee because he says the government should get out of the beer and wine business. 'We’re the only county in Maryland, and I believe we're the only local government in America, that has a monopoly on wholesale.'"

Well, much like Riemer's failed Nighttime Economy Initiative, the liquor committee has utterly failed to execute that stated mission.

All they've been able to do is pass a resolution that will set up legislation in Annapolis to allow the county to privatize special orders. Even with this so-called "significant change," the County Department of Liquor Control would retain the power to designate a "special order" item as a general stock item, putting that product back under total government distribution control again. To quote directly from the resolution, "The classification of special order items will be the final responsibility of the County Department of Liquor Control."

Are Maker's Mark and Grey Goose "special order" items? They're the Budweiser and Miller Lite of spirits. They were also unavailable for weeks at a time from the DLC, according to Hans Olson of Clyde's Tower Oaks Lodge. Depending on how those common spirits are categorized under the new system, nothing could change at all for products bartenders depend on.

Will you now, as a grown adult, be able to buy Bud Light at CVS or Giant in Bethesda? Will you be able to grab a $9 bottle of white wine to go with that prepared salad you've picked up at Safeway?

Nope (and before a troll commenter says, "But that's because of state law!", so is Riemer's special order change, that requires exactly the same sort of change at the state level to be enacted. So why wouldn't the Ad Hoc Committee have passed a resolution regarding grocery and drug store sales as well?).

Will special order products be cheaper for restaurants and stores to order if the legislation is passed in Annapolis?

Nope. The County will have to charge a fee (a.k.a. tax) on private special-order liquor wholesalers to make up for the lost revenue. The special order resolution clearly states that the fee shall "Be set and charged by Montgomery County."

If, unlike many of our elected officials, you understand how taxes on businesses work, they are passed on directly to the consumer. So prices can only remain the same, or rise. The private liquor distributors will still profit, but you as the consumer or private retailer could end up losing money in this deal.

With all of this in mind, you might be a bit shocked to find The Washington Post touting "Major changes may be in store for Montgomery County's liquor distribution policy."

Say what?

Turning to page C4 of Sunday's Metro section, you find a self-promoting op-ed by Councilmember Riemer offering no such "major changes" whatsoever. But he does spend many paragraphs promoting himself, and an apparent alternate history in an alternate dimension, where he has apparently been an effective councilmember. Why would the Post aid him with such a friendly headline? Only they know the answer to that question. But we do know that the Post's editorial page staff withdrew their endorsement of Riemer in the 2014 election, declaring his thin record of "accomplishment" insufficient to warrant reelection by the voters.

You wouldn't know that from Riemer's piece, though. When it's not touting himself, it's making false claims that would earn him a Four Pinocchio/Pants on Fire rating from fact checkers.

The article starts by declaring that "Significant changes are in store," which - if you've just read the previous paragraphs, should warrant a chuckle at best.

Then he argues "we cannot afford to continue undermining the basic business operations and investment climate for our restaurants," despite having repeatedly done just that through multiple votes he has cast on the Council since 2011.

How about this sentence: "Many residents express an intense frustration with retail access to beer and wine. Statewide restrictions prevent grocery stores and other retailers from selling alcohol." Now that's worth much more than a chuckle. When you're finished rolling around on the floor laughing, you'll remember that, as I wrote above, the committee could be asking legislators in Annapolis to change those very "statewide restrictions" right now, if it hadn't been a failure.

Will stores like Bradley Food and Beverage and Talbert's continue to compete with the County DLC's monopoly, which enjoys multiple cost advantages over mom-and-pop shops while - unlike those shops - paying no taxes? You betcha.

But let's not burst Mr. Riemer's bubble of alternate universe whimsy: "My goal was to create a stronger local economy while making the county a more vibrant place to live. These reforms will help achieve that vision."

Is this the same "local economy" that hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a decade? The same local economy that has been whipped in job creation every single year by Northern Virginia counties and the District?

Perhaps the biggest laugher in the piece is when Riemer states that "Montgomery County is now 'the best place in the region' to open a brewery, according to leading craft entrepreneurs." Is that why D.C. and Virginia have been killing us in the number of breweries opening for so many years?

All we are doing is slowly catching up to what competing jurisdictions are already doing. We are absolutely not the best by any means. Riemer's boast is like bragging that your small town is going to allow to businesses to open on Sundays. Golly gee willikers! Wow! Amazing! That's cutting edge! "It's amazing, because a couple of political supporters of mine who are beer aficionados said it's amazing." Sounds like a solid, objective source to me.

Leading craft entrepreneurs apparently also tell us that we didn't need the Northrop headquarters, a completed Master Plan highway system, or even food trucks, in Montgomery County.

Yes, folks, when Councilmember Hans Riemer starts acting on an issue, you'd better pray it's not the industry you're working in. There's usually nothing left but debris by the time he's finished.

Remember when Riemer got his political operative and campaign contributor a $150,000-a-year job in County Government - that you pay for? And then put him in charge of food truck policy?

And then 96% of food trucks went out of business, or ceased coming into Montgomery County? That's making MoCo "a more vibrant place to live," right? Especially since new urbanists are over the moon about how food trucks make cities a more vibrant place, and attract young professionals. Which MoCo currently isn't doing so well at, according to statistics.

Meanwhile, at lunchtime you'll find those same food trucks parked a few yards over the county line by Mazza Gallerie in the District. Whoops.

Or, how about his failed "Nighttime Economy" initiative? And how there are now actually less nightclubs in downtown Bethesda since Riemer took office and did all this "wonderful" work? And Barnes and Noble closes earlier at Bethesda Row?

It's funny to hear Riemer now talk about allowing food trucks to operate at night. They already were operating at night, until he and his operative led an effort that got rid of food trucks. In 2011, trucks like Tastefully Toasted could be found serving the crowds leaving bars (many of which are now closed) in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle.

While friendly local media outlets continue to praise Riemer through propaganda articles, this media outlet is going to continue to ask the tough questions every time the councilmember tries to use the liquor fiasco to promote himself.

His piece did not provide any answers on what he knew about illegal activity in the County DLC, and when he knew it.

Less than 48 hours after the polls closed on Election Day 2014, the News4 I-Team aired a report alleging illegal activity was taking place inside the County DLC. The investigation was conducted over several weeks prior to Election Day, in News4's own words.

Councilmember Riemer appeared in the November 6 report, in a formal, sit-down interview, to feign outrage at this supposedly-"new" information. This wasn't a hasty press ambush, but an interview that had obviously been arranged in advance.

Here's the question the Washington Post and other local media outlets haven't asked Riemer yet:

When did he know about this illegal activity in the DLC, and did he keep it quiet until after Election Day to ensure he would be reelected? Riemer, and the other 8 councilmembers, have oversight authority over the DLC. All 9 could have been hurt politically by the scandal.

The time for propaganda and grandstanding to be replaced with real answers has long passed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The shocking results of an investigation by News 4's I-Team into the Montgomery County Department have added to the growing public questioning of why the county is in the liquor business to begin with. But the timing of the revelations, and Councilmember Hans Riemer's quickness to grandstand in a later News 4 sit-down appearance, raise questions. What did he know, and when did he know it? And why did this all go public just 48 hours after Election Day?

Riemer has received tremendous publicity in local media for several years regarding changes he has suggested in county and state liquor regulations. None of those reports indicated that Riemer had received a campaign contribution from at least one liquor license attorney. Riemer's initial proposals did not address public concerns such as the inability to purchase beer and wine at grocery stores in the county, but were more related to expanding the number of people eligible to obtain liquor licenses in the county, and being able to serve liquor without food in county establishments. Now, in this latest interview, Riemer is talking about getting the county out of the business altogether. Which I would welcome. In any case, it's been known for some time that the councilman is eager to change liquor regulations.

Fast forward to immediately after the reports aired. Hans Riemer conveniently was the only county councilmember interviewed for the follow-up report. I'm sure Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich or Nancy Floreen or any other number of councilmembers would have something to say about stolen liquor, and county employees allegedly drinking and driving. But they did not appear. No details have been given so far, but the rapid TV appearance suggests that Riemer was known to the reporters prior to the day the reports aired.

So to get back to the question of, "What did they know, and when did they know it," the News 4 report says the I-Team was following the trucks for several weeks. I think what the taxpayers have a right to know is, when was it known that County DLC drivers were allegedly drinking on the job, and stealing and reselling liquor? Before Election Day, or after? When was Hans Riemer alerted to these findings by News 4 - before Election Day, or after?

If the scandal had become public prior to Election Day, it would have been damaging to Mr. Riemer, County Executive Ike Leggett, and any other council incumbent on the ballot, as each one of them has oversight authority over the DLC.

What was the timeline?