ANNAPOLIS — The Frederick County delegation in Annapolis killed a proposal to allow the sale of wine, beer and liquor in co-op-owned grocery stores with their silence on Friday.
Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) was the sole voice to affirm her support of the proposed bill, which the delegation unanimously sent to be drafted the week before. But no one would second her motion to approve the bill, and it died before a vote could be taken.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Lewis Young said after the delegation meeting.
Common Market, a co-op-owned grocery store in Frederick County, proposed a new license that would allow co-op food stores to sell certified organic or Maryland-made wine, beer and liquors in their stores from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. The sales would have been limited to less than 10 percent of average daily sales and 5 percent of the building’s floor space.
Opponents of the bill, however, said it was opening a path for chain supermarkets and franchise food stores to follow.
Ben Golueke, owner of Mt. Airy Liquors since 1997, said it was a relief to see the delegation reject the bill. His store created a section for organic wines five years ago, of which he carries 30 to 40 varieties, he said. He also sells between 10 and 15 types of organic liquor as the organic market has grown in popularity.
A carve-out for co-ops or grocery stores could have hurt his business.
“We’ve been fighting the chain stores [getting] liquor licenses all the years I’ve been doing this,” Golueke said.
Lewis Young countered that the bill would have been a “small accommodation” to a “targeted market,” though she has previously said that Maryland’s alcohol laws are antiquated and should move in the direction of other states in allowing the sale of alcohol in grocery stores.
Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) and Delegate Ken Kerr (D-District 3B) worried if creating a new license for co-ops was fair. Young was uncomfortable with creating a license that is not tied to the census, which limits Frederick County’s liquor licenses by population. Kerr also worried it was unfair to let Common Market jump the line, rather than wait for an available license.
“We’re not going to put Wegmans out of business. I promise you that,” said Common Market General Manager Bob Thompson.
It is unclear what will happen to the bill next. Common Market could potentially seek a sponsor for the bill this session. The delegation chairwoman, Delegate Carol Krimm (D-District 3A), also said she may be open to convening a delegation meeting in Frederick County on the topic after the session ends to consider it again in the 2020 session.
The co-op will evaluate its options, Thompson said after the meeting.
“I think that was the right decision,” Krimm said. “There wasn’t the support of the delegation, as you saw.”