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2019 Baltimore City Liquor Bills

Improving alcohol laws in Baltimore is an important part of the city’s  violence reduction strategy. Several loopholes have made it difficult for neighborhoods to address problem alcohol outlets that pose harm and safety threats to area residents.

These bills will help 1) remove loopholes encountered by neighborhood organizations that impede their ability to effectively protest the license renewal of problem alcohol outlets, 2) limit the ability of problem outlets to avoid being penalized for their bad behavior, and 3) provide immediate protection for  communities where violent acts have been committed in a licensed establishment.

The hearing for these bills will be Monday, February 18, 1:00 pm before the House Economic Matters Committee.

House Office Building, Room 230
6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD

Parking Details
Gotts Garage, 25 Northwest Street
Other downtown Annapolis parking garages

Contact Economic Matters Committee Delegates to ask them to support these proposals that will help fix these loopholes and  empower neighbors to address persistently problematic alcohol outlets.

See testimony guidance and sample letter

Davis, Dereck E. (Chair) Contact Delegate Davis, D.E.
Bromwell, Eric M. (Vice Chair) Contact Delegate Bromwell
Adams, Christopher T. Contact Delegate Adams
Arentz, Steven J. Contact Delegate Arentz
Branch, Talmadge Contact Delegate Branch
Brooks, Benjamin Contact Delegate Brooks
Carey, Ned Contact Delegate Carey
Charkoudian, Lorig Contact Delegate Charkoudian
Crosby, Brian M. Contact Delegate Crosby
Dumais, Kathleen M. Contact Delegate Dumais
Fennell, Diana M. Contact Delegate Fennell
Fisher, Mark N. Contact Delegate Fisher, M.
Glenn, Cheryl D. Contact Delegate Glenn
Howard, Seth A. Contact Delegate Howard
Impallaria, Rick Contact Delegate Impallaria
Lisanti, Mary Ann Contact Delegate Lisanti
Mautz, Johnny Contact Delegate Mautz
Miller, Warren E. Contact Delegate Miller
Qi, Lily Contact Delegate Qi
Queen, Pam Contact Delegate Queen
Rogers, Mike Contact Delegate Rogers
Valderrama, Kriselda Contact Delegate Valderrama
Watson, Courtney Contact Delegate Watson, C.
Wilson, C. T. Contact Delegate Wilson

Alcohol & Violence

Baltimore City leaders and communities have many potential solutions to address surging homicides, Among them: reducing the number of alcohol outlets.

Murder clusters around alcohol outlets. Each additional alcohol outlet in a census tract raises the homicide rate 1.6 percent. Nearly half of all homicides — 47 percent — are caused by excessive drinking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that the murder wouldn’t have happened if the perpetrator hadn’t been drinking. Apply CDC’s calculations to Baltimore, and 161 of the 343 homicides in 2017 were caused by excessive drinking.

Learn more about alcohol’s role in Baltimore City’s violence epidemic with the following:

Baltimore Alcohol & Violence Fact Sheet (PDF)
Baltimore Alcohol & Violence Fact Sheet References
2018 Baltimore Sun Op-Ed

TransForm Baltimore: Alcohol Provisions

TransForm Baltimore (TransForm) is an update to the Baltimore City zoning code that was passed by the Baltimore City Council on December 5, 2016. It was the first update to the zoning code since 1971. TransForm contains several provisions that relate to alcohol outlets in Baltimore City.

The rules and regulations included in TransForm went into effect as of June 5, 2017.
Liquor Stores in Residential Districts (§ 18-701)

The 1971 rewrite of Baltimore’s zoning code prohibited the operation of liquor stores in residential districts (R Districts). Despite this regulation, liquor stores that already existed in these districts could continue operating under a “conditional use” license granted by the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals (BMZA).

Forty (40) years later, during the TransForm planning process, approximately 100 of these liquor stores still remained in R Districts. With the passage of TransForm, any liquor store located in an R District is now considered a non-conforming use and must stop selling alcoholic beverages and change the nature of the business or move by June 5, 2019.

Currently, there are approximately 76 non-conforming liquor stores located in R Districts. You can visit the CityView Map of Baltimore to get the new zoning information and to determine if a liquor store in a location would be subject to this provision.

Taverns (§ 14-337)

A tavern is any business that primarily sells alcoholic beverages for customers to drink on site, but may also sell alcoholic beverages for customers to take off site.

Under TransForm, taverns may only continue to operate in Baltimore City if:

  • They have the correct license type from the Board of Liquor License Commissioners of Baltimore City (BD-7);
  • At least 50% of their total average daily receipts are from products they sell for customers to consume on site;
  • At least 50% of the public floor space is devoted to on-site consumption; and
  • They keep records of all alcoholic beverage sales to ensure they meet the 50% on-site sales requirements, and these receipts are made available for inspection to validate compliance.

Currently, city staff is working to assess and identify taverns that may be out of compliance with the new regulation. For taverns found to be in violation, a notice will be issued by the city requiring compliance. If they do not meet these regulations, they will be required to cease operations.

The regulations concerning taverns are in addition to existing state regulations. If you would like to learn more about the state regulations, visit the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioner’s Rules and Regulations.

Hardship Waiver (§ 18-701(b))

The owners of both taverns and non-conforming liquor stores may request a hardship waiver for an additional two-year extension granting them up to four years to comply with the new code. However, they must file a hardship waiver request by June 5, 2018. More information about the rules and limitations for requesting a hardship waiver are available on the TransForm Baltimore website.

Distance Restrictions (§ 14-336)

TransForm requires that any new establishments that sell alcoholic beverages be located at least 300 feet from any other existing establishments that sells alcoholic beverages. The BMZA may grant a waiver during the conditional use process to allow a new establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to open within 300 feet of an existing establishment if the new establishment can prove that its operation will have “no negative impact to public health, safety, and welfare.”

This spacing requirement does not apply in C-5, C-1-E, and PC Districts

Alcoholic Beverage Advertising and Signs (§ 17-602)

TransForm sets restrictions on alcohol advertising and signage in any publicly visible location, including any outdoor billboard, side of a building, or freestanding signboard. It includes the following regulations:

  1. For each business that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, only one sign per street front that contains the name or slogan of the business is allowed; no other exterior wall or window signage is permitted.
  2. The total signage on each street front cannot cover more that 15% of the window and exterior wall.

What does this mean for you?

You and other members of your community will play an important role in ensuring these new regulations are enforced. Although the alcohol outlets will have at least two years to conform or cease operations, there a few things you can do now:

  • First, consult the CityView Map of Baltimore to determine if any liquor stores in your neighborhood are impacted by the new code. Educate yourself about what makes a tavern noncompliant and what the owner must do to comply with the new code.
  • Second, stay aware of important deadlines, including the deadline to file for the hardship waiver and the date by which these establishments are required to conform to the new zoning requirements. Pay attention to whether the non-conforming establishments in your neighborhood have filed for a hardship waiver, made modifications to comply with the zoning code, or have permanently closed,
  • And finally, continue to check the Baltimore Good Neighbors Coalition’s (BGNC) Facebook and Twitter posts to stay updated on the latest news regarding alcohol outlet legislation and enforcement. As the deadlines for waiver requests and compliance draw near and decisions about enforcement are made, BGNC will continue to provide important updates for community members regarding the process for filing a complaint about non-compliant establishments.
Delegate Email
Del. Mosby nick.mosby@house.state.md.us