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Liquor License Requirement Could Be On Way Out

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 2/10/2014, 2:25pm  ET

Bar at Caddies on Cordell (file photo)What some feel is a burdensome residency requirement for liquor license applicants could be on the way out thanks to a bill introduced last week in Annapolis.

Like many jurisdictions in Maryland, Montgomery County requires at least one applicant for a new restaurant liquor license to be a resident of the county. It also requires the person, known as the resident agent on the license, to have lived in the county for at least two years at the time of application.

That has proved to be an obstacle for some, especially in Bethesda, a healthy restaurant market that many restaurant owners from elsewhere want a piece of.

Some are also concerned about how the requirement could hurt Montgomery County’s push for a more lively nighttime economy.

Silver Spring Del. Tom Hucker introduced a bill on Friday to exempt the county from the two-year residency requirement. On Monday afternoon, the County Council unanimously agreed to add it to the county’s 2014 legislative program. A hearing is scheduled on the bill for Friday.

All local liquor laws must be changed in Annapolis. The county delegation was already pursuing nine alcohol law changes, including a bill that would allow beer festivals, a bill that would allow alcohol to be served in beauty salons and one that would remove the restaurant requirement for obtaining a microbrewery license.

Changes to state law affecting county liquor rules aren’t uncommon, but this year’s push comes on the heels of a county task force report on how to improve the area’s nightlife.

Sean Morris, a Bethesda attorney who specializes in liquor license applications, said the residency requirement often means restaurant owners must go on an exhaustive search for a county resident willing to put his or her name on a liquor license.