Sixty-three percent of Maryland residents think the longstanding virtual prohibition on the sale of beer and wine in large-chain grocery stores should be overturned, according to a 2012 poll.
Now, a Montgomery County lawmaker has proposed bringing beer and wine into the county's grocery stores. It would require a change to state laws governing the county's monopoly on the alcohol business.
Democratic Del. Eric Leudtke, of Burtonsville, proposed allowing the county to open beer and wine operations inside big chain groceries, like Giant and Safeway. The proposal would essentially allow county-run Department of Liquor Control mini-stores to sell beer and wine under the same roof as groceries.
"I would love to have wine sold at the grocery store," said one customer outside a Rockville Giant Tuesday, who said she is exasperated when she travels to other states and sees how convenient it is.
Leudtke's proposal would allow the county to keep it's $255 million annual monopoly on alcohol sales in the county by bringing its county-run operations into groceries.
But the proposal has badly shaken hundreds of "mom-and-pop" store owners who resell beer and wine supplied by the Department of Liquor Control in small stores all over the county.
"This will literally crush me," said Paul Mugge, who operates Tiger Beer Wine and Deli in Rockville. "The state of Maryland created all of these stores by making it illegal to buy alcoholic beverages in grocery stores, and now if they allow it in grocery stores it’s going to put us all out of business."
Mugge supports his disabled wife and put a son through college—who went on to the military—thanks to his store. He said the proposed changes would be a death sentence for most small store businesses in the county.
"No!!", shouted customer Jean Jones when she heard about the proposed changes. "These are good people!"
The Maryland Retail Association, which represents most large-chain groceries in the state, supports the Leudtke proposal.
"From a consumer convenience standpoint, this is something Marylanders have wanted to see for a very long time," said MRA President Cailey Locklair Tolle.