February 13, 2015

Executive Branch Responds to Report on “Review of Alcohol Control in Montgomery County”

The Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) has just released a draft report that analyzes the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) and presents five options that could lead to fundamental changes in the system that controls liquor distribution to County-operated retail alcohol stores, to private beer and wine stores, and to restaurants.

Entitled “Review of Alcohol Control in Montgomery County,” the report examines the DLC’s structure, operations, policies, practices and legal requirements. It also looks at the department’s financial, budget and personnel data. Feedback on DLC’s wholesale operations and an analysis of the costs and benefits associated with changes to the structure of DLC also are contained in the report.

The Executive Branch has responded to the report and its options in a memo saying while the OLO report recommends options to privatize liquor sales in the County, the Executive feels that “local liquor control has served Montgomery County well.”

The memorandum, signed by Chief Administrative officer Tim Firestine, notes that the Department of Liquor Control contributes an average of $30 million in profit each year to the County – “helping us to fund schools, transportation, help for the vulnerable in our midst, and more. It helps us keep taxes lower. We have lower alcohol consumption and higher revenue for public purposes than other jurisdictions.”

While agreeing with parts of the OLO report, the memo states that the Executive branch has “concerns with some of the information and methodology in the draft report.” It goes on to list eight points questioning details of the report. The memo concludes with the statement that the Executive looks forward to providing more detailed information and analysis to the OLO and the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor


  1. The government should not be in the alcohol business. The fact that it can make money off its alcohol monopoly is beside the point. (In any case, it could just as easily make money off an alcohol tax.) Why is this not obvious to the Executive?

    1. The fact is that only the State of Maryland can tax alcohol and any exception (very unlikely) would need to be approved by the State. Also, any specifically County alcohol tax would raise prices only in the County and lead folks to buy outside. Local control jurisdictions (such as Montgomery) make 80 percent more revenue than those jurisdictions that rely on license fees (which drive up business costs) and taxes. And, local control jurisdictions have lower alcohol consumption rates. The Centers for Disease Control have said that local liquor control advances the public health more. In Montgomery County we do not have liquor stores on every corner, unlike many license jurisdictions. When Washington State privatized, the number of liquor licenses went up over 300 percent. Our system gives us the right balance.


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