Liquor store owner opposes growler bill in Howard County

By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Several Howard County restaurant owners are lobbying for the right to sell refillable containers of beer and wine to dine-in customers, but the plan has raised concerns from the owners of a liquor store that the sales would result in irresponsible drinking.

Corinne Gorzo, who co-owns Glenwood Wine and Spirits with her husband, John, spoke out against refillable containers to state lawmakers, voicing concern about potential sanitation and safety issues resulting from customers drinking to excess.

She attended a hearing held by the county's delegation, which has drafted a bill that would permit county restaurants to sell draft beer in the containers, known as growlers. The measure would exclude liquor stores and bars. The local legislators are also considering an amendment that would allow restaurant owners to sell wine from taps in refillable containers. Baltimore City lawmakers are pushing a similar bill regarding beer.

Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat and the delegation's co-chairman, said he would likely move the bill toward consideration by the full General Assembly, unless delegation members change their minds about it. Howard County lawmakers already held a straw vote in favor of the bill.

Randy Marriner, owner of Victoria Gastro Pub, which has a wide selection of brews, has lobbied for growlers. He, along with Hugh Sisson, general partner of Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe, and Joe Barbera, who owns Aida Bistro Wine Bar in Columbia, came out to support the measure this week.

Sisson said laws permitting beer growlers are in effect in multiple states and that the trend is growing as more beer drinkers look for specialty brews they can only find on tap. Barbera said the demand for his wine on tap is a quickly growing market.

But the bill still raises concerns for the Gorzos.

John Gorzo said his opposition is not based on a fear of competition from growler sales, saying the majority of draft beers sold would likely be specialty beers. But he said he fears some restaurant owners would allow customers who have already had too much to drink to buy beer to go. He also doesn't want to see the legislation allow future expansion to hard liquor.

"If you have a patron in the [restaurant], they will fill this up and they will go out to the parking lot," Gorzo said.

"Once the bill passes, any restaurant can do the same thing," he said. "If it's just high-end restaurants, I support that. The three restaurants that represented themselves are all high-end, very reputable. I have no problem with them — just as the program expands."

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