Legislative Round-Up: States Weigh Changes to Alcohol Laws

State lawmakers around the nation are considering bills that address everything from higher wine taxes, to serving size for wine-infused ice cream, to liquor licensing at beauty salons.

In Maryland, where alcohol is tightly controlled, the legislature has a designated “liquor day” to consider beverage bills. A slate of 62 bills hit that state’s General Assembly last week. A high-profile proposal would expand the number of licenses that can be granted to retailers. It’s sought by Bethesda-based Total Wine, which is prohibited from opening a third store in its home state. Another bill would establish a tasting license for beer, wine, and spirits in agricultural Cecil County, MD, with servings limited to 1 ounce of beer or wine, and one-half ounce of liquor.

Pennsylvania is facing a budget deficit, and may try to fill it by ordering its state-owned liquor stores to improve gross margins, after a consulting firm reported that other states with their own liquor operations have lower operating costs and higher profits. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized last week that the state could generate more revenue by selling its stores and getting out of the liquor business.

Mom and pop stores are squaring off against large retailers in Connecticut, over a bill that would lift price controls. The current law requires retailers to adhere to a price list set by wholesalers.

Montana could prevent education cuts by doubling its wine tax of 27 cents per liter, according to a state senator who says her bill would generate $2.5 million for the state’s general fund.

North Carolina’s craft brewers want to repeal a law that prohibits them from distributing their own products once their production hits 25,000 barrels. They hope to raise the cap to 200,000.

Restaurant patrons in Mobile, Alabama could be served a glass of wine or beer at a sidewalk cafe under a proposal to permit outdoor service only in specified entertainment districts. Currently, customers seated outside must walk inside to get their own drinks.

A New Mexico state senator is carrying a bill that would allow restaurants to uncork bottles carried in by customers.

New York may alter a regulation requiring ice cream to be sold in quantities no smaller than a pint, to pave the way for restaurant-sized portions of a very popular wine-infused ice cream.

In Tennessee, they’re fighting a ban on Sunday grocery store sales. This follows a successful 2014 bid to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine at all.

In Florida, grocery stores would be able to sell liquor under a bill making its way through the legislature. Currently, liquor sales must be conducted in a separate facility. Beer and wine sales are permitted in the stores.


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