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Maryland is surrounded by states with diverse licensing laws. Some are more liberal (DC, Virginia) than others (DE, PA). Below is a summary of surrounding states:




DC has some of the nation’s most liberal laws. Due to the diplomacy corps, DC allows direct importation of alcohol from overseas. There are 525 off-premise licenses. Any grocery store that makes less than 15% of revenue from beer and wine sales can get a license. Drug stores are the only type of food and beverage retail chain store that can’t sell alcohol in the District, with the exception of 1 CVS and 2 Walgreens that are allowed to sell beer and wine because they are considered full-service grocery stores.  



Delaware has some of the nation’s most restrictive laws. Along with prohibiting chain store alcohol sales, Delaware is one of only five states that has strict wine shipping rules. Consumers can’t order wine to be directly shipped to their house unless they go to the actual winery to place an order. Delaware also has complex and limited corkage laws – only one restaurant in the state currently allows customers to bring their own beer or wine.  



Pennsylvania has historically had some of the nation’s most restrictive laws. Since Prohibition, it has been a control state which means only state-run stores could sell all three types of alcohol. Retail dispenser licenses also existed, which only allowed beer and malted beverages to be sold. All of this has recently changed. For Pennsylvania chain grocery stores to sell, they must turn a portion of their store into a café with a seating area for at least 30 people. Pennsylvania has two different tiers of ABC stores: everyday selection and premium stores. The number of stores per capita in Pennsylvania is half of the national average, which leads consumers to shop outside the state to find their desired alcohol. In fact, so many people from Pennsylvania were traveling to Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic to buy alcohol at one point that the Ohio governor issued a decree that only Ohio consumers could purchase alcohol in Ohio’s easternmost counties.



Virginia combines free market stores with control sales for liquor. The profits from Virginia ABC provide funding for various state programs. Virginia has over 300 wineries, over 200 breweries, and 59 distilleries with more opening every year. There are 450 retailers that sell alcohol in Virginia, which is sufficient in satisfying per capita needs. Virginia, with its legalized chain store sales, has lower underage drinking than Maryland according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

West Virginia


West Virginia has relatively lenient liquor laws. Along with allowing the sale of alcohol in most chain stores, Sunday sales and direct wine shipping are also permitted. West Virginia has 178 privately owned retail liquor stores including the chains.



Maryland is one of only three states in America that doesn’t allow any type of alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) to be sold in retail chain stores. Maryland used to allow 1 chain store license per county until 1978, which explains the 20 grandfathered stores. While Maryland is very progressive in other areas of public policy, it’s one of the least modern in terms of the alcohol retail landscape.

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