No Timeline Set Yet for New DLC Task Force

Spokesperson for County Executive Ike Leggett said work is underway to set it up


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County Executive Ike Leggett is working to set up a task force to study how to alter or possibly privatize the county’s Department of Liquor Control, but there is no timeline in place to appoint individuals to the task force or for it to begin work.

Leggett spokesperson Patrick Lacefield said Friday that Leggett is likely to appoint members who represent the full range of interests and perspectives in the debate over the future of the DLC. He said work began on setting it up immediately after state legislators asked Leggett in late February to take the lead on creating the task force.

Ginanne Italiano, the president of the Greater Bethesda Chevy-Chase Chamber of Commerce, said Friday Leggett has told chamber officials in the county that he plans to focus on the task force after the General Assembly adjourns later this month, which is scheduled to happen April 11.

“We don’t know who’s going to be on it,” Italiano said. She said the chamber would like to see representatives from the business community and the chamber on the task force, as well as a county alcohol license holder—a beer and wine shop owner or restaurateur.

Other organizations are also jockeying for a position on the task force.  The Montgomery County Alcoholic Beverages Advisory Board sent a letter to Leggett Thursday asking that he appoint one of its members or a member of the health community to the task force. The board includes five members appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the County Council who make recommendations on how to improve enforcement of alcohol regulations as well as alcohol distribution operations in the county.  

“Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity, and can impact many social and public health issues if not regulated in the correct fashion,” the letter said. “With this in mind, we ask that consideration is given to include public health and safety organizations to be members of this task force.”

It’s also likely that UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, the local government employee union that represents about 350 of the DLC’s workers, will request a seat or seats on the task force. The union’s president Gino Renne couldn’t be reached for comment Friday morning, but union members previously asked legislators to ensure they were part of any discussions about reforming the DLC.

The DLC maintains a unique monopoly over alcohol in the county. It controls the wholesale distribution of all alcohol as well as the retail sale of all liquor. County leaders have been reluctant to consider changes in the DLC because it contributes about $30 million in profits to the county’s general fund.

At the same time, restaurateurs and beer and wine shop owners have criticized the department for inaccurate deliveries, limited selection and poor customer service. After a County Council ad hoc committee studied problems at the DLC, the department put forth an action plan to improve its operations. George Griffin, the longtime director of the DLC, resigned from his position in January following major DLC delivery problems that affected local restaurants and businesses during the busy Christmas holiday season.

Members of the county’s state delegation asked Leggett to create the task force after they declined to vote on two bills that would have altered the DLC’s monopoly structure. A letter sent to Leggett by the delegation said, “It is our hope that the County Executive will pull together representatives from all of the stakeholders to really examine the operations of the DLC and devise a forward thinking plan.”

Leggett has said the task force will examine options that include privatizing the DLC and improving its operations. He also said he hopes the task force will complete its work so that legislation can be introduced in the 2017 General Assembly session. 

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