(March 7, 2014) The Worcester County Commissioners gave their approval Tuesday for a bill introduced last Thursday in the House of Delegates that would allow applications for privately owned liquor stores in Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
Later on Tuesday however, Delegate Mike McDermott, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he would be concentrating on an earlier bill, the bill that would extend that privilege only within the town limits of Berlin. And on Thursday, Pocomoke Mayor Bruce Morrison said he and the council did not want their town to be part of the bill.
During their Feb. 18 meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to support an amendment to the state code allowing a person to apply for a Class D liquor license so they could sell liquor by the bottle to go in Berlin.
Attorney Joe Moore had asked for their approval on behalf of Chris Denny, who would like to add liquor to his inventory of beer and wine at Cheers, at the intersection of Main Street and Old Ocean City Boulevard in that town.
The county dispensary, the town’s sole liquor store, had been located within town limits until a few months ago when the county closed it and opened a new, much larger store, Shore Spirits on Route 50 east of Stephen Decatur High School and outside the town’s boundaries.
That left Berliners, Moore said, without a convenient place to purchase liquor in the town. Although Shore Spirits is only a half-mile outside Berlin, most people would have to drive farther, because of where they live, to buy their spirits, Moore said. He would have to make a five-mile trip from his house to Shore Spirits and then back home.
Furthermore, he said, the towns of Snow Hill, Pocomoke and Ocean City have liquor stores. Snow Hill and Pocomoke, however, have county liquor stores, but no privately owned liquor stores.
House bill 1512, introduced by Delegates Norman Conway and Mike McDermott on Feb. 27, could change that. It would allow people in those towns to apply for a Class D liquor license from the Board of License Commissioners in Snow Hill. To be granted a Class D license to sell liquor to go, the person must show a need for it and must have, or plan to have, a 25-seat bar.
In a Feb. 26 letter to Delegate McDermott, Pocomoke City Mayor Bruce Morrison wrote that the he and the council agreed that Pocomoke should be included in the proposed legislation, but he wrote that it was their understanding of the bill that they would be able to decide if a need existed for additional liquor outlets before any such license would be issued within the corporate limits of the town.
Mayor Morrison was incorrect in that assumption. It is up to the Board of License Commissioners to decide whether a need exists for a liquor license.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Delegate McDermott said he had spoken with Mayor Morrison over the weekend and advised him of the current law and how Pocomoke would not have any more or less control than they do under current law. The licensing issues are only in the purview of the county, he told Morrison.
McDermott told Ocean City Today that he would be concentrating on his separate bill, House Bill 1535, that only includes Berlin, for the time being.
“There are other areas in the county along with the two municipalities where changes could be made and the matter deserves closer scrutiny,” McDermott wrote in an e-mail.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Morrison said he wants more research done of the bill. “It doesn’t give us any power,” he said. “We wouldn’t even have veto power.”
It is possible, he said, that they could decide they do not want to be included in the bill.
“I don’t want to see [liquor stores] on every corner,” Morrison said.
Morrison said Thursday that he and the council had decided to ask to be removed from the bill.