A Senate Committee heard testimony early last week that legislation to allow supermarket chain and food stores to sell beer and wine in Maryland would be a boon to the consumer.

But members of the Economic Affairs Committee, which took no formal action, appeared unimpressed with the argument that the 1978 law prohibiting retail chain stores, discount houses and supermarkets from selling beer and wine was discriminatory and stifled competition.

Several food stores and retail groups joined forces under the name of the "Committee for Fair Consumer Marketing Practices" to lobby for the repeal of the 1978 law. Lobbyist Bruce Bereano testified that repeal would promote quality and equity in the market place and lower consumer prices.

But Sen. Sidney Kramer (D-Montgomery) said it was the responsibility of the legislators to "protect that small entrepreneur who is a fast dying breed."

"I have watched the chain stores for the past 15 years put out the Mama and Papa groceries," said Kramer. "I am concerned that this bill is going to limit competition once the small stores go out of business. When you eliminate that competition, I don't really think that's consumerism."

More than 50 people wearing badges urging defeat of the bill lined the committee room walls, and applauded Kramer's testimony.