2020 Baltimore City Liquor Bills
In 2020, Del. Mosby reintroduced the “Grounds for Suspension” bill with HB509 (formerly HB965 in 2019 session) and the Protest of License Renewal Zoning Violations Act with HB441 (formerly HB980 in 2019 session). During the Baltimore City Delegation hearing, it was decided to amend HB509, changing the language to “probable cause” from “reasonably articulable suspicion”. The Liquor Board opposed HB509, primarily raising issues with timeframe for due process and whether it is reasonable to allow the Executive Secretary, a civilian employee, to determine what constitutes probable cause. Del. Mosby requested an Attorney General (AG) opinion on the bill. The AG’s office indicated that the due process provided in the bill and the provision permitting the Executive Secretary to determine probable cause was reasonable. Both bills were supported by the Baltimore City Delegation and passed the House; however, the General Assembly ended early due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many bills were stalled, including these two bills.
2019 Baltimore City Liquor Bills
After 90 days of intense legislative activity, we are excited to share that three important alcohol bills passed this session, two citywide and one statewide.
HB 959 Baltimore City – Alcoholic Beverages – Licenses Renewals and Adult Entertainment Act (Baltimore City)
As of July 1, 2019, citizens will now be able to look at the past four (4) years, instead of only one (1) year, of a license holder’s violation history to trigger a citizen protest of a liquor license renewal. Just as the past history of the licensee is used by the Liquor Board to assess fines and penalties for violations, it will now be allowed to be considered when a license renewal is being protested. This bill also prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from entering establishments that offer certain adult entertainment unless the individual is an employee, an agent or a contractor of the establishment.
HB 960 Alcoholic Beverages – Local Licenses – Prohibited Transfers Act (Baltimore City)
The practice of transferring ownership to avoid penalties will be more difficult for license holders come October 1, 2019. With the passage of this bill, license holders who have pending criminal charges or disciplinary matters before the Liquor Board will not be permitted to transfer ownership to avoid facing penalties. By fixing this loophole, the Liquor Board will have more authority to hold the most egregious license holders accountable.
HB 1052 Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (Statewide)
After a veto override, the General Assembly passed HB 1052 into law establishing a new Alcohol and Tobacco Commission effective June 1, 2020. Through the Commission, best practices will be established for data-informed liquor inspections, server/seller training, reporting requirements between police and liquor boards and much more. This statewide bill has broad public health and safety implications for alcohol regulation in Maryland.
Sent for Interim Study
HB 965 Baltimore City – Liquor Licensing Board – Emergency Suspension of License Act (Baltimore City)
This bill would have given the Liquor Board the power to immediately suspend a liquor license when a death or serious injury occurs at an alcohol outlet. It would have allowed the Executive Secretary of the Liquor Board to suspend a license immediately if there is reasonable suspicion that the license holder has not taken action to prevent violence on his property and provide for a timely hearing on the suspension. Despite receiving a favorable review from the Office of the Attorney General, this bill was sent to interim study for further examination over the summer and fall. BGNC is committed to getting this bill re-introduced in the 2020 Legislative Session and will work closely with the Committee staff to see it through.
HB 980 Alcoholic Beverages – Protest of License Renewal Zoning Violations Act (Baltimore City)
This bill would have removed a Baltimore-only liquor rule that prohibits the Liquor Board from considering zoning violations when liquor license renewals are protested by citizens. This prohibition limits neighborhoods’ ability to bring cases before the Liquor Board and restricts the Liquor Board’s ability to hold liquor license holders accountable for violating laws that are designed to protect the public. This bill was also sent for interim study, and BGNC is equally committed to getting this bill re-introduced next session.
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:
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.
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.