On the way out the door, I had mentioned to my wife (a non-beer drinker) that Reform on Tap would discuss selling beer in grocery stores. “That would be great.” she said, “It would save me a shopping stop.” As I would learn from Len Foxwell, 89% of Marylanders agree with her.
Despite the rain on a Wednesday afternoon, the tasting room at Jailbreak Brewing was packed with people. I found a place to stand in the very back corner. John Bodnovich, the Executive Director of American Beverage Licensees, was presenting the retail perspective on the Maryland beer business.
My take away from his presentation was:
- The Maryland liquor sales pie is not increasing, we’re just cutting more slices.
- When grocers and chains have been allowed to sell beer in other states, bad things happen, (i.e. less beer diversity and fewer liquor stores).
- Most liquor stores in Maryland are small businesses and family run. This is due to the current liquor laws and the 3-tier system.
Three retailers spoke: Chuck Ferrar, Jack Milani, and Joe Petro. Chuck Ferrar, owner of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits of Annapolis just hired his grandson, so they are a 3rd generation business. Joe Petro owns Hair O’The Dog in Easton, Maryland. Mr. Petro notes that Talbot County is the only county in the state that allows grocery stores to sell beer and wine. He sees lots of people buying alcoholic products in the grocery stores but has no empirical data. Jack Milani of Monaghan’s Pub of Woodlawn summarized a question posed to him, saying, the only thing positive about selling in grocery stores is it’s convenient to the consumer (I’m paraphrasing).
I like visiting my local liquor store, Allview Liquors. They carry plenty of craft beer and their knowledgeable staff won’t refer me to a real estate agent when I ask about a farm house. The liquor laws in Maryland have helped small, local businesses remain local, something you do not see in other business segments (i.e. department stores, grocery stores, hardware stores). It seems to me, promoting local small businesses is Peter Franchot’s stated mission. I am willing to put up with a little inconvenience in order to support local businesses, local jobs, and the local economy. What do you think?