Booze – No License, Just Tax

Dear Readers,
No beer and wine store this year!
The state bill to grant beer and wine “off-sales” licenses in Takoma Park, was apparently talked to death.
The guy who allegedly killed it is Charles Barkley, a Germantown delegate. Yes, he’s from Montgomery County, and the MoCo delegation was supposedly backing the bill. According to city deputy manager Suzanne Ludlow, Barkely objected to the provision that allowed the city to approve the licenses.

Huh? What?
It’s confusing, Dear Readers, we know. To clarify: Takoma Park has long been a “dry” city, not allowing liquor sales. Montgomery County controls liquor sales, granting liquor licenses to restaurant and stores. The locations of those businesses are defined by county and state law.
To make Takoma Park one of those locations where beer and wine (not hard liquor) are sold, a state bill allowing that has to be passed. So, after pressure from the business community and constituents, and after several public hearings, the city council submitted such a bill.
BUT, the city stuck a provision in the bill that gives it final say over who gets a license. Normally the county grants licenses with only local advisement. If the locals don’t like who gets the license – tough tooties.
The council was ready to take that provision out when they sent the bill off to the state capitol in Annapolis. Sure enough, even with the backing of the MoCo delegation (all the county state representatives and senator) it caused outrage in some quarters. The way it happened got the council’s back up, so with the MoCo delegate’s encouragement they held firm on the “local control” provision.
The bill was sent to subcommittee, said Ludlow, and what happened is murky. The state process is not anywhere near as “transparent” as municipal process, she said. Delegate Barkley apparently opposed the local control provision because it would set a precedent.
This outraged others of the MoCo delegation because Barkley was violating, “local courtesy,” the unwritten gentle-persons’ agreement between county representatives. There was, apparently, a great deal of back-and-forth as time ran out and it was not resolved. That’s the semi-transparent impression Ludlow said she got, anyway.
Regression Digression
Speaking of alcohol – the regressive state tax bill that the city endorsed on behalf of its progressive county representatives seems to be on the verge of passing this last chaotic day of the 2011 legislative session.
The bill is a tax increase on liquor. That’s how the legislature solves the problem of not having enough money. Too cowardly (or “pragmatic,” to use their logic) to try to raise income taxes – any attempt to do so would be strangled at birth by legislative leaders, they say – they raise a regressive one instead.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, Dear Readers, Here is a pithy quote that explains it well: “it doesn’t take an economic genius to know that a person with 10 bucks worth of income suffers more from a $1 tax (10-percent of their income) than someone with 20 bucks worth of income and the same assessed tax (five-percent of their income).”
That’s from J. Doug Gil, who covers Maryland politics. His blog appears at Here are more selected quotes from his recent post, “With democrats like these, Maryland’s middle- and lower-class need no enemies?

In yet another example of the State House being chock-full of folks who couldn’t lead a deaf mute in silent prayer, lawmakers are spinning a two-fold tale of cow poo in order to quantify raising the sales tax on alcohol. . . .
Big Lie number one was the amount of cash that the alcohol tax would bring to the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, and those with leprosy that Jesus has failed to heal.
Now, the health organizations that were to benefit from the drunken rabble are being stiffed for millions of dollars – or, ‘walk around money’ as the state workers unions call it – and the bulk of the cash is now earmarked to restore education funding in Baltimore City (which already sees nearly $15,000 per pupil) and Prince George’s County (ranked 8th in per pupil spending) so they can just piss the money away themselves.
In all, these two jurisdictions will receive 80-percent of any revenue generated by this latest tax on working families.
Big Lie part deux is the whining line of pony droppings that the tax on alcohol hasn’t seen an increase since Eisenhower was in the White House. As another great military man, Col. Sherman Potter of the 4077th, was known to say: horse hockey!
The tax on alcohol went up 20-percent – just like all other taxable goods – when the 2007 version of this Folies Bergere by the Bay hiked the state’s sales tax from 5- to 6-percent.

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "Booze – No License, Just Tax"

  1. Charles Barkley | April 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.

  2. First time that we see Gilbert riled up by an increase in taxes! Ah! But these are “regressive” as they affect disproportionately lower income…not like taxes on home-ownership that affect seriously long time owners on fixed income? The difference is that in one case it is easy to adapt (drink less) while in the other case the only choice is a much more radical move…

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