Maryland supermarket owners, angered by the passage last year of a bill prohibiting them from selling beer and wine, have had their own bill introduced to repeal the statute.
The owners admit that their chances for passage are about 50-50 since the legislators just passed the prohibitive bill and many of their elected officials own liquor stores and bars.
Maryland's new law, pushed last year by the Maryland Liquor Stores Association and liquor store-owning legislators, prohibits supermarkets, discount houses and chain stores from applying for a permit to sell beer and wine.
The law allows store owners with licenses to keep them, but the stores cannot apply for additional licenses. Before the law was passed last year supermarket owners were allowed to have one liquor license per county. Thus only one of several supermarkets of the same chain is allowed a license.
Paul Santoni, part owner of the two Santoni markets in Baltimore, said that supermarkets and small grocers were content to have one license per county. "We were willing to go and apply and get the run around. Okay," Santoni said. "But now that we can't even apply, that got everybody's dander up. If they don't pass that bill it will be the biggest disgrace in the state legislature. That's denying our rights. We can't even apply."
But liquor store owners say the supermarket owners' bill "is a very chaotic bill and it serves no purpose," said Maryland Liquor Stores Association spokesman Ruth Bazers.
Bazers said the bill would tend to encourage minors to drink beer and wine and would add pressures on the liquor industry, which must fight off bad publicity about teen-age alcoholics. "We feel it would create more of a headache combating all of this," Bazers said.
The grocery store owners say, however, the liquor store owners are afraid the grocers will undersell liquor stores and take away business. Grocers also point toward Virginia as an example of supermarkets and other stores which are allowed to sell beer and wine without problems and without running state regulated liquor stores out of business.
"I think we can do as well as the liquor stores," in preventing minors from purchasing beer or wine, Santoni said. Beer and wine sales would constitute about 2 percent of a grocery store's sales volume, Santoni added.