Alcohol authority proposed for Montgomery Co.

WASHINGTON — The way alcohol is sold in Montgomery County could be changing if a plan to take it out of government hands is approved.

The proposal would not privatize the system, but would create a liquor authority to handle the sale and distribution of alcohol in the county.

Such an authority would operate separately from the county government, which currently handles distribution through its Department of Liquor Control, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said. The authority would have its own board of directors and would have its own ability to borrow money and take on debt.

“A liquor authority will bring private sector experience and management to the table in the form of a board of directors,” Leggett said in a statement. “The organization will be more nimble and adaptive to market changes and community needs, and would improve operational efficiency and effectiveness, while continuing to transfer profits to the county.”

The authority, which would be responsible for the wholesale and retail distribution of alcohol in the county, would take control of the Department of Liquor Control’s assets, and employees would be transferred to the authority.

After distribution issues last holiday season, the county organized a work group to evaluate different options to improve distribution in the county. Among the other options that were considered: privatizing the entire system; privatizing just the wholesale distribution system; bringing in private management; or establishing a public-private partnership for the department.

A proposal will go to the Maryland General Assembly for approval. If approved, the authority would take over Oct. 1, 2019.

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