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Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control

History and Philosophy

Every one of the fifty states of the United States exercises its statutory, police and administrative powers to regulate the distribution and accessibility of beverage alcohol. The extent of that regulation varies from state to state, but the essential point remains that all Americans experience some degree of governmental control over beverage alcohol.

That any government entity should exercise such control springs from the clear consensus that beverage alcohol is in a class all its own. Beverage alcohol is a legal drug and because of the unique social risks and public costs of its abuse, it is general agreed that the community interest demands effective regulation.

Thirty-two states regulate the distribution of beverage alcohol indirectly by issuing licenses to private sellers. These are known as the “license states”. Eighteen states regulate more directly by conducting their own retail and/or wholesale distribution of beverage alcohol. These states are known as the “control states”. One result of control method of distribution is that private profits are replaced with revenue generated for the community to more effectively support public policy goals of moderation and revenue enhancement.

Although Maryland is considered a license state, citizens of Montgomery County MD enjoy the many benefits offered by a control jurisdiction. With emphases on customer service and control, Montgomery County conducts the wholesale distribution of beverage alcohol, while sharing the retail segment with approximately 870 license-holders, consisting of restaurants, delicatessens, country clubs, lodges and carry-outs.

The history of today’s Department of Liquor Control and Board of License Commissioners began shortly after the end of nationwide Prohibition. On December 5, 1933, the Liquor Control Board for Montgomery County was established by law. For the next 18 years, the Liquor Control Board controlled the sale and distribution of beverage alcohol in Montgomery County and served as the Board of License Commissioners. Then, on July 1, 1951, the Department of Liquor Control was created by Section 159 of Article 2B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, and the Board of License Commissioners became a totally separate entity.

Today, the Board of License Commissioners is responsible for licensing and regulation, and its office shares the responsibility of enforcement with the Police; while the Department of Liquor Control handles the distribution to all beverage alcohol outlets and owns and operates 25 retail stores. These 25 stores maintain exclusive right to the sale of spirits for carryout while sharing the privilege of selling wine and beer with off-premise license-holders.

The method of operation used by Montgomery County, MD succeeds in balancing the promotion of moderation in the consumption of beverage alcohol with the offering of a wide variety of products at reasonable prices while returning a generous profit to the General Fund for use in paying for other citizen services such as police, fire and education.

Such durability would seem to confirm the fundamental wisdom of the control system and to reflect its adaptability to changing consumer demands and lifestyles. That adaptability has successfully taken Montgomery County from its early days as a dispensary to its role today as a customer-oriented service organization.
(information provided by NABCA and Article 2B of the annotated code of Maryland)


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Department of Liquor Control • 201 Edison Park Drive • Gaithersburg, MD 20878
240-777-1900 •