A state advocate for expanding consumer access to beer and wine is speaking out against the decision in Howard County not to grant a liquor license to a proposed liquor store on the second floor of the Columbia Wegmans, saying it is a "defeat" for consumers.
Adam Borden, president of the board of directors for Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, said his organization was disappointed by the by the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Commission to not grant a liquor license to Upstairs Wine and Spirits LLC.
Owners of the proposed business said they had planned on opening an approximately 10,000 square foot liquor store in a walled-off space on the second floor of Wegmans. On Wednesday, a Wegmans spokesperson said the company did not know yet what it was going to do with the large space on the second floor near the Wegmans cafe.
"Consumers benefit by more selection and greater availability," Borden told Patch Wednesday. "On both regards, consumers would have loved this."
Advocates for small liquor stores in the area praised the liquor board's decision.
J. Steven Wise, an attorney who was representing King's Contrivance Liquors and Glenwood Wine and Spirits and who also represents the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, said earlier this week that consumers would have to decide if this was a victory for them.
"I think it's a victory for the small businesses that constitute the alcoholic beverage industry and all of their employees," said Wise. "We've built up a system here in Maryland where you look at any grocery store and either to the left or the right you'll see a small package store owned by a local business, run with local employees, and that's a value to the community."
Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, which was founded in 2005, is a state advocacy group that has successfully advocated and lobbied the Maryland legislature to allow state residents to have wine shipped to their homes and allow wine corkage in Maryland restaurants.
More than 75 liquor store owners from Howard, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Baltimore County testifed at the three hearings regarding the proposed Wegmans liquor license. Most the large liquor store would have on their small businesses and questioned whether the application was within the law.
The beverage commission for the license denial. Members said there wasn't need for the store because there were 13 other liquor stores within three miles, and that the store was "on the premises" of a chain grocery store, which they said was a violation of Maryland law.
Currently, there are 46 states and D.C. that allow beer sales in grocery stores and 38 states plus D.C. that allow wine sales as well, according to Borden, who said if consumers want wine and beer in chain grocery stores, they need to speak up.
"I think it would require a lot more on this issue and more coordinated effort from the retail community," said Borden. "The hearing board chose to represent the interests of the community. If the only community they hear from are the [liquor] licensees both within and outside the community, then those are the only voices that seem to care about this issue."
Editor's Note, CORRECTION: Adam Borden was originally listed as Adam Bednar, we regret the error.