Inclusion | Opportunity | Innovation

Las tiendas de licor del condado pierden millones de dólares al año. Que se puede hacer al respecto?

Estimado residente:

El condado de Montgomery tiene una política de alcohol inusual. Los restaurantes y las tiendas privadas deben de comprar cada botella de vino, whisky o cerveza directamente del almacén del condado.

(A menos que se haya producido localmente, en ese caso el producto puede ser entregado directamente por el fabricante).

El condado también opera 25 tiendas de licor, más conocidas como tiendas de “Liquor and Wine”. Estas son las únicas tiendas donde se puede comprar licor en el condado.

Hay cientos de tiendas privadas que venden vino y cerveza (beer and wine), pero solo un puñado de supermercados lo hacen.

Si usted sigue los temas locales, probablemente sepa que nuestro sistema genera millones en ingresos, aproximadamente de $20 a $30 millones de dólares al año que se distribuyen a escuelas, parques y a otras prioridades.

Sin embargo, lo que le puede sorprender es saber que la ganancia neta se debe totalmente a la operación del almacén de alcohol del condado. La realidad es que las operaciones de comercio de las tiendas de Liquor and Wine están perdiendo regular dinero, ¡alrededor de $ 5 millones de dólares al año!

En la revisión del presupuesto de este año y en diálogo con el concejal Katz, el Servicio de Bebidas Alcohólicas o ABS (anteriormente DLC) nos ha comunicado que recientemente han realizado cambios en sus prácticas contables para hacer un mejor seguimiento a las ganancias y pérdidas de cada tienda. También compartieron que son pocas las tiendas que pierden dinero.

Deseando comprender mejor el tema, le pedimos al personal del consejo que analizara los datos financieros recientes de el Servicio de Bebidas Alcohólicas.

FY19 ABS Retail Store Profit and Loss (all stores)

Al ver el análisis del personal del Consejo, me sorprendió descubrir que casi todas las tiendas de Liquor and Wine pierden dinero.

Desde hace ya bastante tiempo que las tiendas de Liquor and Wine aparentan ser rentables debido a que el almacén del condado no les ha estado cobrando un margen de ganancia durante las transacciones de venta.

Por esta razón los inventarios de venta han parecido bajos y consecuentemente las tiendas se han visto artificialmente rentables; en otras palabras, las tiendas de Liquor and Wine se han estado quedando con las ganancias del almacén del Condado.

A base de lo sucedido, el Servicio de Bebidas Alcohólicas ha cambiado sus prácticas para que ahora los inventarios de las tiendas de Liquor and Wine reporten los mismos precios que los inventarios de las tiendas de comercio privado- ahora, el costo de alcohol incluye un margen de ganancia cobrado por el almacén del condado. Este ha sido un buen cambio porque permite al Condado analizar el costo real que el servicio proporciona.

Las nuevas cifras del año fiscal pasado muestran que 19 de las 25 tiendas de Liquor and Wine no son rentables y muestran una pérdida neta anual promedio de más de $230,000. Si bien la operación del almacén del condado remitió una ganancia de más de $34 millones al presupuesto del condado del año pasado (incluyendo los pagos destinados al servicio de deudas), las operaciones de las tiendas de Liquor and Wine en realidad perdieron más de $5 millones de dólares.

En otras palabras, si el Condado hubiera actuado solo como mayorista en estas transacciones; es decir, vendiendo el producto a tiendas privadas en lugar de a tiendas de Liquor and Wine, los fondos del condado hubieran ganado lo perdido es decir, un poco más de $5 millones de dólares; fondos que podríamos usar para apoyar, por ejemplo, al Plan educativo para el futuro de Maryland (The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future).

Qué se puede hacer al respecto?

No existe justificación alguna para operar tiendas que pierden dinero en vez de ganarlo.

En este momento, lo que nos conviene más desde un punto financiero es quedarnos con el almacén y cerrar las tiendas de Liquor and Wine y dejar que las tiendas privadas vendan licor.

En ese caso, tendríamos que crear un régimen de licencia para que las tiendas privadas vendan alcohol, sin embargo, eso requeriría cambios en la ley estatal y no es claro si la legislatura del estado apoyaria ese cambio.

Existe otra opción. En el 2015, presidí el Comité de Control de Licores Ad Hoc del Consejo. Las investigaciones del Comité sacaron a la luz cuestiones que dieron lugar a una amplia gama de reformas.

(También desatamos el sector de producción de alcohol artesanal, el cual continúa prosperando, con múltiples cervecerías en el centro de Silver Spring, Rockville / Derwood y Olney / Brookeville; y nuevas bodegas y destilerías).

Gracias al trabajo del Comité de Control de Licores Ad Hoc, el estado adoptó una ley que en vez de proporcionar licencias permite al Condado la venta de licor a tiendas privadas por medio de contratos. Reemplazar las tiendas del Condado de esta manera permitiría al Condado mantener el control sobre la ubicación y la densidad de las tiendas de licor en el Condado, esto es algo algo que le interesa a muchas personas.

Esta opción le permitiría a las tiendas privadas de Beer and Wine a expandir sus ofertas y generar más clientela. Esta opción tampoco requiere ninguna acción legislativa estatal. El Ejecutivo del Condado, si así lo quisiera podría ordenar al Servicio de Bebidas Alcohólicas poner este cambio en marcha.

Una última opción sería ejecutar la operación de ventas, pero esta vez con ganancias. Eso requerirá cambios grandes (pero tal vez pueda funcionar).

En mi opinión, los residentes toleran los Liquor and Wine del Condado porque creen que estas tiendas producen fondos destinados a la educación y la seguridad pública entre otras prioridades. Pero ahora, sabiendo que nos está costando dinero mantener abiertos los Liquor and Wine del Condado el tema es percibido completamente diferente.

Con todas las necesidades que existen en nuestra comunidad, no podemos gastar fondos en servicios que no tienen un beneficio público convincente.

Francamente, la única consideración que de debe tener en esta situación, es consideración hacia los trabajadores de las tiendas de Liquor and Wine. Los trabajadores se merecen un trato justo; pueden haber trabajos vacantes en el condado que podrían llenar.

Espero que nuestra carta al Ejecutivo del Condado lo aliente a elaborar un plan para que un cambio suceda pronto.

Acerca del almacén

Si bien el Comité Especial recomendó la privatización parcial del almacén de alcohol del condado, nos detuvimos antes de decir “hay que deshacer todo”. Una de las razones por la cual nos detuvimos es debido a que las ganancias del almacén se utilizaron para asegurar alrededor de $125 millones en bonos, una operación financiera a largo plazo, una decisión tomada por el Condado en el 2008 y 2009 con la que debemos de vivir hoy.

Cualquier movimiento que resulte en la pérdida de flujo de ingresos que respaldan a esos bonos requeriría que el Condado use el presupuesto general de construcción para pagarlos.

Los bonos asegurados equivalen a aproximadamente a el costo de una nueva escuela secundaria. Actualmente estamos construyendo tres escuelas secundarias en nuestro programa de construcción: Crown (Gaithersburg), Woodward (Bethesda) y Northwood (Silver Spring), lo que le está costando al Condado alrededor de $125 millones de dólares por cada una. Con eso en mente y examinando un posible trueque realista, ¿cuál de tres escuelas deberíamos sacar del programa de construcción para poder pagar los bonos del almacén?

Por más que esté a favor de una reforma de licor, siempre he creído que invertir en las escuelas es una prioridad más importante para la mayoría de nuestros residentes.

Los supermercados deberían de vender cerveza y vino

Finalmente, un tema que creo que la legislatura estatal debe abordar con urgencia es permitir que los supermercados vendan Beer and Wine. Esto está prohibido por la ley estatal y cambiarlo requiere crear un tipo de licencia que permita su venta en los supermercados, esto es algo que solo la legislatura estatal tiene el poder de hacer. Cambiar este mecanismo no nos costaría ni un céntimo, todo lo contrario, nos generaría ingresos.

Mucha gente asume que esta extraña restricción es parte de nuestro sistema del Condado, pero el hecho es que es una prohibición estatal que se creó para proteger a las tiendas privadas de Beer and Wine de su mayor competencia; los supermercados.

Esto tiene que cambiar.

En Resumen
El 3 de Octubre, los concejales Katz, Glass, Rice, y Hucker colaboraron conmigo y juntos le escribimos una carta al Ejecutivo Elrich acerca de nuestro descubrimiento con respecto a las tiendas de Liquor and Wine y su pérdida de $5+ millones de dólares anuales.

En la carta le pedimos al Ejecutivo que revise la información proporcionada y que por favor nos responda con un plan de acción para fines de año si es posible.

Gracias,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Concejal del Condado de Montgomery

County Liquor Stores Losing Money, and What To Do

Montgomery County has an unusual alcohol policy. Restaurants and private stores must buy every bottle of wine, whiskey or beer from a County warehouse.

(Unless it was made locally, in which case it can be delivered by the maker directly.)

The County also operates 25 no-frills retail stores. They are the only stores where you can buy spirits.

Hundreds of private stores — but only a handful of grocery stores — sell beer and wine.

If you follow local issues, you probably know that our system generates a lot of revenue, $20-$30 million per year, for schools, parks and other priorities.

What might surprise you though is to learn that the net profit is entirely due to the warehouse operation. The County’s retail operation actually loses money — about $5 million a year!

In this year’s budget review, in dialogue with Councilman Katz, the ABS (formerly DLC) shared that they had recently made changes to their accounting practices to better track the profit and loss of each store. They said a few stores actually lose money.

Wanting to better understand the issue, we asked Council staff to analyze the most recent financial data from ABS.

FY19 ABS Retail Store Profit and Loss (all stores)

I was shocked to find that almost all of the stores lose money.

The County’s stores have long appeared to be profitable because they were not charged a markup from the County warehouse. This makes the retail operation’s inventory cost seem low and the stores therefore to be artificially profitable. Or put another way, the warehouse was allowing the store to book its profits.

ABS changed the practice so that now the stores must report their inventory at the same cost as private retailers — the cost that includes the markup charged by the warehouse. This was a wise change to make because it enables the County to judge the true cost of providing the service.

The new data for the previous fiscal year shows that 19 of the 25 retail stores are unprofitable with average annual net loss of over -$230,000. While the warehouse operation sent a profit of over $34 million to last year’s County’s budget (including debt service payments), retail operations actually lost more than $5 million.

In other words, if the County had only acted as a wholesaler in these transactions – selling the product to private stores rather than County stores – County resources would grow by $5 million — funds that we could use to support, for example, the education Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

What should we do about it?

There is no good justification for operating retail stores at a loss.

At this juncture, the most financially advantageous approach would be to retain the warehouse but close the stores and allow private stores to sell spirits.

Creating a license regime for private stores to sell spirits, however, would require state law changes. It is unclear if the state legislature would support that.

There is another option. In 2015, I chaired the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control. The Committee’s investigations brought issues to light that resulted in a wide array of reforms.

(We also unleashed a craft alcohol production sector, which is thriving now, featuring multiple breweries in downtown Silver Spring, Rockville/Derwood, and Olney/Brookeville; and new wineries and distilleries.)

Based on the Ad Hoc Committee’s work, the state adopted a law allowing the County to sell spirits by contracting with a private store, rather than issue a license to that store. Replacing the County stores in this manner would allow the County to retain control over the location and density of liquor stores in the County, something that many people care about.

It would also enable private beer and wine stores to expand their offerings and generate more customers. And it does not require any further state legislative action. The County Executive could direct the ABS to do it now.

A final option is running the retail operation at a profit. That will require some big changes (but it might be possible).

In my view, residents tolerate the County liquor stores because they believe the stores produce funding for education and public safety among various priorities. But knowing that the County liquor stores actually cost us money is a different story.

With all of the needs in our community, we simply cannot afford to expend resources on services that don’t have a compelling public benefit.

Frankly, the only real consideration is the retail employees. They deserve fair treatment; there may be other jobs in County government.

I hope our letter to the County Executive will encourage him to bring the county union to the table and work out a plan to make it happen.

Let’s get on with it.

What about the warehouse?

While the Ad Hoc Committee recommended a partial privatization of the operation, we stopped short of saying “just get rid of the whole thing.” A big reason is that the warehouse profits were used to secure about $125 million in bonds, a long term financial decision made by the County in 2008 and 2009 that we must live with today.

Anything that would result in losing the revenue stream supporting those bonds would require the County to use our general construction budget to pay them off.

That is about the cost of a new high school. We are currently building three high schools in our construction program — Crown (Gaithersburg), Woodward (Bethesda), and Northwood (Silver Spring) — costing the County about $125 million each. So, to examine realistic trade offs, which school should get cut to pay off the warehouse bonds?

As much as I favor liquor reform, I have long believed that paying for schools is a bigger need and a higher priority for most of our residents.

And Grocery Stores Should Sell Beer and Wine

Finally, an issue that I believe the state legislature must urgently address is allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine. They are prohibited by state law. Changing it requires creating a state license for grocery stores to sell, which only the legislature can do. It wouldn’t cost us a penny. (Just the opposite, it would generate revenue.)

A lot of people assume this bizarre restriction is part of our County system, but the fact is that it is a state prohibition that was created to protect small retailers from grocery store competition.

It needs to change.

Summing up
On October 3, Councilmembers Katz, Glass, Rice, and Hucker joined me to send a letter to County Executive Elrich about our discovery that the County’s retail liquor stores are losing $5+ million annually.

We asked the Executive to review the information we provided and respond with a plan of action by the end of 2019.

This post has been updated from a previous version

Update on the Nighttime Economy Task Force

To be competitive for creative-class workers as well as empty-nesters, Montgomery County must be able to offer the new urban quality of life that those residents are seeking. To advance this issue, I requested the County Executive to establish the Nighttime Economy Task Force, which examined policies, resources and amenities that impact Montgomery County’s nightlife offerings. The task force led to the passage of numerous pieces of legislation in the Maryland state legislature as well as the County Council, all of which make it easier for restaurant and entertainment-oriented businesses to thrive in Montgomery County. I think it has been a success.

Please see the most recent implementation report below (PDF), as prepared by the County Executive’s team.

Nighttime Economy Task Force Implementation Summary May, 2015

Task Force Recommendations

County Executive Ike Leggett appointed the Montgomery County Nighttime Economy Task Force in May 2013 to explore ways of improving nightlife offerings at Montgomery County’s urban centers to meet the changing needs of our community.

After five months of intense work, the Nighttime Economy Task Force delivered the report, “Destination Montgomery,” to the County Executive with 32 recommendations for improving options and quality nightlife in Montgomery County. These recommendations covered the following six areas:

  1. Arts and Entertainment,
  2. Business Engagement,
  3. Public Space and Amenities,
  4. Quality of Life,
  5. Transportation, and
  6. Venue Operations and Public Safety.

Implementation Overview

A year and half after the report’s official release, the recommendations are at varying stages of implementation. A few have been implemented, some are actively being implemented, others are being further evaluated, and a few are no longer applicable or supported by the County government.

Recommendations successfully implemented

  1. Recommendation: Extend the hours of operation for venues with beer/wine/liquor licenses to 2 am on Sundays through Thursdays, and to 3 am on Fridays, Saturdays, and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays.
    Status: HB-463 and SB-657 were passed were passed in support of the recommendation.
  2. Recommendation: Expedite the creation of a social venue license, and modify the current alcohol to food ratio under the Class B beer/wine/liquor license from 50/50 to 60/40, to reflect the change in increased demand for higher quality, higher priced alcoholic beverages and to encourage establishment and operation of venues that host live music and other events.
    Status: HB-142 and SB-300 were passed in support of the recommendation.
  3. Recommendation: Develop an educational Patron Responsibility Program.
    Status: Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) has partnered with Brown-Forman and a designated driver program called “Be My Designated Driver” (BeMyDD), to encourage people to plan their night out and ensure a safe ride home. These programs are being promoted by alcohol serving venues with a planned community education program with private sponsorship.
  4. Recommendations: Planning or Zoning Changes:
    1. Amend zoning standards to provide flexibility in meeting public use space and open space requirements.
    2. Support additional density in the County’s urban areas to foster a vibrant
      nighttime economy.
    3. Explore alternative, more attractive incentives for developers to include suitable, affordable performance spaces for small and emerging arts groups.

    Status: The Montgomery County National Park and Planning Commission finalized in 2014 the Zoning Rewrite for the county which ultimately, updated zoning codes and the zoning map that helped address the recommendations listed above. One remaining opportunity revolves around understanding the opportunities available under the Arts & Entertainment Districts. The Department of Economic Development is helping draft information both for the Planning Department and other entities on the Arts & Entertainment Districts but also other related tax incentives that exist for developers including Enterprise Zones, Façade Improvements, Green Building Codes, the Public Art amenity, just to name a few.

Recommendations being Implemented (in progress)

  1. Recommendation: Improve awareness of parking options.
    Status: All three urban districts are in agreement in utilizing and promoting the ParkMe application (www.parkme.com) for visitors and consumers, which is the preferred application by the Montgomery County Parking Lot District.
  2. Recommendation: Marketing County business resources and assets.
    1. Market A&E districts and county business resources to property owners.
    2. Create, develop, and implement a marketing program for the County.

    Status: These above recommendations are being advanced by multiple partners. The three A&E districts are exploring Placemaking options to enhance urban vitality and an inviting atmosphere that include both daytime and nighttime hours. The Office of the County Executive is taking a lead on developing a comprehensive economic strategy that will include better alignment of place-based economic development and program- based economic development. It is also in the middle of a multi-year marketing and branding project with several short-term projects to be delivered in spring 2015.

  3. Recommendation: Develop and implement a busker program to provide entertainment in urban areas.
    Status: The Silver Spring Regional Center and the Montgomery County Innovation Program has been developing the idea of a busker program to be piloted with the Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment Advisory Committee, the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee. This group has been working on several areas including Identifying Potential Busking Areas, Developing the Specific Parameters for Busking, Enforcement, and Promotions and Marketing.
  4. Recommendation: Enhance pedestrian and bicycle access.
    Status: Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton are all moving forward to achieve this goal based on their unique needs. Bethesda has made a top priority improving lighting. Silver Spring and Wheaton have made has made pedestrian walkability a top priority through lighting, walking and biking accessibility.
  5. Recommendation: Create Urban Parks Guidelines to activate public space through design elements, enhance the greater community, and foster multiple uses to appeal to a range of demographics at different times.
    Status: The Department of Parks is working with Planning on efforts to activate spaces such as in Silver Spring, especially in areas that are not public parks but are public properties or quasi-public such as WMATA, while developing guidelines for new development particularly within urban areas to help define and develop spaces that can foster activity both during the day and evening.

Recommendations being further evaluated

  1. Recommendations: Developing transportation options.
    1. Expand the “Safe Ride” program to all weekends (Friday evening through early
      Sunday morning).
    2. Increase the number of taxi stands.

    Status: Due to the changing market and new players like Uber that are challenging existing regulations and established players like taxis, the Council is working on addressing taxi regulations that will help address the recommendations moving forward.

  2. Recommendations: Business Services Tailored to the Small Business Community.
    1. Create a concierge service that promotes positive customer service, assists with streamlining the planning and permitting process, and facilitates working relationships with multiple departments for the business consumer.
      Status: Several departments provide concierge service to small businesses including the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Liquor Control, and the Department of Permitting Services.
    2. Recommendation: Simplify and streamline the process businesses must go through in order to open an arts and entertainment venue or hold an arts and entertainment event.
      Status: The County Council has just approved a new Ombudsman in the Office of the County Executive for commercial and residential development projects who will report directly to the Chief Administrative Officer. DPS has consolidated the permitting process to support new and existing restaurants through its “Recipes for Success Packet” to explain the process of opening a restaurant in Montgomery County.
  3. Recommendation: Develop a targeted strategic plan for attracting new companies to the County, fostering entrepreneurship, and growing our existing businesses based upon the target markets.
    Status: The Comprehensive Economic Strategy underway will address the above issues and serve as a comprehensive blueprint for Montgomery County’s future economic success, including how retail and placemaking can support an overall economic vision and vitality. Achieving this recommendation would require further research into the retail inventory in the county’s urban centers ultimately leading to the creation of a retail plan for the county. This would help show gaps in retail, especially with those that are and/or can become retail destinations. That information would then lead to the strategic and targeted company attraction referenced by the task force.
  4. Planning and Development
    1. Recommendation: Reduce opportunity for crime in urban areas by incorporating Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) techniques.
      Status: This is a shared responsibility between a cluster of departments including Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, General Services and the urban districts in creative placemaking to eliminate dead spots and create an inviting atmosphere at the urban centers.
    2. Recommendation: Encourage more housing options.
      Status: Two issues related to housing options need to be addressed–the size of dwelling units and the parking standards for these developments that need to be further explored.
  5. Transportation Options at Night
    Recommendations:

    1. Improve/expand the circulator service in focus areas.
    2. Expand the frequency and reach of late-night transit service.

    Status: All three urban districts would encourage WMATA to extend hours on weekends to 3am, especially with the extension of hours to 3am in FY15. Additional bus service should be considered if demand increases over time.

  6. Urban Districts Support and Development
    Recommendations:

    1. Support dedicated public safety resources for the nighttime economy in high density
      urban centers.
    2. Increase funding for Business Improvement Districts and Urban Districts.
    3. Professionally manage and maintain public spaces through the private sector or
      through public-private partnerships (similar to the Bethesda Urban Partnership). Urban District would like to increase coordination with MNCPPC as Optional Method Developments (OMDs) come on board within the districts to activate public and private spaces.

    Status: These are long-term, broad-based recommendations, most of which will be supported as demand for services increases over time, especially for police and the urban districts services in each area. To sustain this enforcement would certainly require identifying the related departments and future funding sources, especially as it pertains to the urban districts. How this is achieved depends heavily on the types of services to be delivered in each urban district or new ones identified over time.

  7. Urban Noise Areas
    Recommendation: Amend the County’s noise ordinance to allow for the establishment of Urban Noise Areas around appropriate locations (e.g., Rockville’s Town Square, Silver Spring’s Veteran’s Plaza and downtown); increase the allowable noise levels for qualifying arts and entertainment activities in these areas to 85 dBA (measured at 100 feet from stage, PA, or other center of the performance); increase the time allowed for these levels to midnight; and ensure that nearby residents are informed prior to moving in of the possibility of event-related noise.
    Status: There are some policy considerations about the recommendation of the NETF, which is a “one-size fits all” approach that proposes a noise standard that could allow much higher noise at receiving properties than currently permitted under Chapter 31B. The recommendation also proposes a different approach to regulating noise than the current noise law by regulating the level of noise a source is permitted to produce rather than the level of noise heard by a receptor. This ignores the reality that different locations have different characteristics, and that what is reasonable at one location may be unreasonable at another. For these reasons, DEP believes it would be prudent to establish specific parameters for each UNA depending on the characteristics of the site. Some policy guidance would have to be provided regarding the balance between those entities creating the noise and those affected by it.

Recommendations no longer applicable or supported
The below recommendations are not being actively supported by the County government at this point for various reasons.

  1. Recommendation: Allow food trucks to operate after 10pm.
    Status: Montgomery County government is exploring options for mobile vending for all hours, not limited to nighttime hours.
  2. Recommendation: Artist tax that would incentivize venues that pay musicians to performance.
    Status: This recommendation is deemed a low-impact measure and thus not supported at this time.
  3. Recommendation: Development of Large-Scale Nighttime Events.
    Status: All three urban areas are concerned about large scale events that may compete with surrounding businesses.

Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

I am pleased to announce that the County, at my request, has adopted a new policy that makes it easier to open craft distilleries in our urban nodes.

Please see the press release below:


Montgomery County Greenlights New Policy To Encourage More Craft Distilleries

September 6, 2016


ROCKVILLE, MD — County Executive Isiah Leggett and Councilmember Hans Riemer today announced a new County policy to encourage the location of emerging and growing craft distilleries.

The policy, based on the recently adopted Zoning Rewrite, allows the annual production of up to 50,000 gallons of distilled liquor in certain commercial/residential mixed-use zones. For companies that grow or are at greater levels of production, of between 50,000 and 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor will be allowed in light industrial zones. More than 100,000 gallons of distilled liquor are allowed in heavy manufacturing zones.

“Applying the new artisan zone to distilleries makes clear to artisans, craftspeople and small businesses that Montgomery County welcomes and supports their spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and has the places for them to locate, create, market and grow,” said County Executive Leggett. “County residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on beer, wine and spirits and this will help encourage ‘home-grown’ products.”

“Since joining the Council, I have worked to strengthen our ability to offer an urban lifestyle,” said Councilmember Riemer. “We need to create communities where younger workers and families as well as empty nesters want to be. When the creative, high-value workforce wants to live in a community, the companies and jobs follow. Breweries have been adding new life to many communities in Montgomery County, and we hope to build on that by clearing hurdles for distilleries.”

Leggett and Riemer worked together to create the Night Time Economy Task Force in 2013, which recommended a policy of self-distribution for breweries, as proposed by the Department of Liquor Control. The subsequent state legislative change resulted in a significant number of breweries launching in the County over the past few years, leading one successful entrepreneur in the brewery sector to call Montgomery County “the best place in the DMV” to start a brewery. New breweries in the County include Denizens, Seven Locks, Waredaca, and Brookville Beer Farm, joining Gordon Biersch, Growlers, and Rock Bottom.

Distilleries, like breweries and wineries, are manufacturing businesses and retailers. They are part of the innovation economy culture that is taking root in Montgomery County. Communities with locally produced beverages benefit from both a vibrant social scene for residents and export-based jobs, as breweries and distilleries sell their spirits to consumers around the country and globally. Breweries are sprouting because of new laws allowing them to sell directly to restaurants without going through a distributor, as well as supportive financing from the State and County. State law
regarding self-distribution has also been applied to distillers, clearing a separate hurdle to innovation and entrepreneurship.

At the request of Councilmember Riemer, the new policy was crafted by the County’s Department of Permitting Services, in close cooperation with Montgomery County Park & Planning.

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