Harford liquor bills affecting movie theaters, college campus passed by General Assembly

Posted April 8, 2016 - Bills allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at Harford County movie theaters and at non-school events held on the campus of Harford Community College have been passed by the Maryland General Assembly.

The movie theater bills, House Bill 892 and Senate Bill 795, passed their respective houses earlier in the session.

The two bills contain a key difference, however, and will need to be resolved in conference committees, if they pass as written.

SB-795 would permit the sale of only beer and wine in theaters, while HB-892 was amended to permit the sale of beer, wine and liquor. The bills would restrict any sales to between 4 p.m. and midnight and would require the theater to sell food other than popcorn and candy and other typical movie theater fare.

The House version of the bill, which would allow the sale of liquor, was passed unanimously by the Senate Wednesday afternoon and sent back to the House Thursday, where it also passed. The Senate version has passed from a House committee but had not reached final passage as of Thursday evening.

Fallston developer Michael Euler Sr. lobbied for the legislation, noting last week one of his tenants in the redeveloped Fallston Village Center, formerly Fallston Mall, will be a "first run, upscale" movie theater. Euler said they want to offer beer, wine and liquor at the new theater.

Harford County has existing movie theaters in Abingdon and Churchville that could also seek licenses to sell alcohol, if the legislation passes.

The companion house and senate bills, HB-1051 and SB-916, to set up a new class of liquor license for the college were both passed by each house.

HB-1051 passed the Senate Thursday, and SB-916 passed the House of Delegates Thursday afternoon, after both received favorable committee reports. They passed in their respective houses last month.

These bills allow the college to receive a master license for beer and wine sales at third-party events held on the campus, up to 25 per year. The license would not apply to school events or athletic events held on the campus.

Also nearing passage is HB-969, which applies to maximum distances between establishments that sell alcohol and public or private schools.

Licensed alcoholic beverage sales establishments in Harford County must be at least 1,000 feet from a school and at least 300 feet apart in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace, according to current law.

Operators of a business in a municipality can appeal the distance restrictions to the liquor board, and HB-969 expands that appeal process to establishments in the county, according to western Harford Del. Rick Impallaria, the chairman of the Harford House delegation.

The bill passed the House 135-2 March 15 and received a favorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Thursday morning, according to the General Assembly website. The bill reached the Senate floor Thursday, where it passed on second reading.