Cheverly Delegate Uncorks New Wine Bill
Proposed state legislation would allow patrons to bring their own bottle of wine to county restaurants
By Zoe Tillman
Prince Georges Gazette
December 14, 2010
Donnell Long, owner of the Olde Towne Inn in Upper Marlboro, said that when a diner calls with a special request, he'll make every
attempt to accommodate them — except when they ask to bring their own bottle of wine.
Long, who holds a liquor license at his restaurant, is prohibited by Maryland law from having a "bring your own bottle," or BYOB, policy
at his restaurant.
"I have customers who have wine cellars in their homes," he said. But when they ask him about bringing their own bottle, he added, "It's
impossible for me to allow them."
Long testified Thursday evening before the Prince George's County delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates in favor of a new bill
that would allow BYOB policies at Prince George's County restaurants. A similar bill is being proposed for Montgomery County
restaurants by Del. Brian Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac.
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly is sponsoring the Prince George's County version, and said the proposal is a "modest" way of
aiding local restaurant owners, many of whom saw a decline in business during the economic downturn. The bill would only apply to
restaurants that hold liquor licenses.
Because Washington, D.C., already allows BYOB policies, Ivey said she was concerned about local diners leaving the county for a
restaurant in the District when they want to enjoy a special bottle of wine.
"For people who do go out and go to restaurants, the ones who are interested in bringing a special bottle of wine with them, they tend to
be more affluent, their checks [at the end of a meal] tend to be higher," she said. "And we want to have those customers at our restaurants
and not going to D.C."
No one testified against the bill during Thursday's hearing. Legislators shared more than a dozen bills they plan to propose during the
upcoming session, which is scheduled to convene Jan. 12.
Melvin Thompson, a spokesman for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, told The Gazette earlier this month that his group, which
represents a number of Maryland restaurants, has "some serious reservations" about the bill, but had not yet taken a position for or
Thompson's concerns included whether the law would cut into owners' alcohol sales, liability issues if a diner drinks too much, and how to
ensure minors do not consume alcohol if it is supplied by patrons.
Bills introduced during previous sessions that would expand how wine is distributed in Maryland also have met resistance. A proposal to
allow wine to be shipped in to Maryland, for instance, has failed to make it to a vote for several years.
Ivey said she sensed opposition would not be as intense against the BYOB bill as it had been against wine shipping because the BYOB bill
changes policy on a smaller scale.
Adam Borden, president of pro-BYOB bill organization Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, said that in addition to the benefits
for restaurant owners and wine-lovers, he believes the BYOB bill would help support the county's nascent winery industry.
Ivey, who supported legislation passed during the 2010 legislative session allowing local wineries to sell their products at farmer's market,
"There are plenty of people who are really into ... buying local," she said. "When people have the opportunity to bring their own local
wine with them into restaurants, I think there's a greater chance they're going to want to do it."