Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reducing the Impact of Liquor Stores in Our Neighborhoods

Last night 53 people participated in a presentation and discussion about city legislation through the new proposed zoning code to reduce the density of liquor stores in neighborhoods and ensure that those establishments with tavern licenses actually operate as taverns.  The audience that gathered in John Eager Howard Recreation Center in Reservoir Hill was very geographically diverse, with attendees coming from south and north of North Avenue.  Michael Snidal, Citizens Planning & Housing Association (CPHA) Director of Community Engagement, led the session with support from 7th District City Councilman Nick Mosby.

Michael Snidal of CPHA leads attendees through an understanding of the legislation
If you have thought that there are an awful lot of liquor store in city neighborhoods you would not be wrong.  The standard is one liquor license for every 1,000 residents, or a total of about 625 licenses (according to the Baltimore City Liquor Licensing Board Standard).

However, there are currently 1,330 licenses in Baltimore, about twice the number Baltimore should have.

In 1971, Baltimore City deemed Class A “packaged good” stores as “nonconforming uses” if they were located in residential zoned areas.  Existing stores were allowed to stay, but no new businesses wishing to sell alcohol could establish in those districts. The hope was that the remaining “nonconforming” stores would close over time. Instead, many benefited from near monopoly conditions and still exist today.

Recently, No Boundaries Coalition produced a map (see below) showing how many liquor stores operate in the neighborhoods of Sandtown, Druid Heights, Upton, Madison, Bolton Hill, and Reservoir Hill, as well as how many establishments offer fresh produce.  The results were astounding.  In our communities, you can purchase alcohol in 53 establishments, but buy fresh produce in only four stores or farmers markets.  For a full view of the map, Click Here.

No Boundaries Coalition map showing outlets for alcohol and fresh produce

Our neighborhoods are wonderful places to live, and they deserve better than this.

The meeting came together because several neighborhoods in Central West Baltimore have had issues with liquor stores in their neighborhoods, and have experienced the same frustrations in trying to improve some sites and eliminate others.  The proposed ordinance in the new zoning code offers a new tool and a systemic approach for addressing the proliferation of liquor stores in city neighborhoods.  With Citizens Planning & Housing Association leading a campaign to pass the legislation and Councilman Nick Mosby supportive and active on the effort, a set of long-standing Central West Baltimore partners, Coppin Heights CDC, Druid Heights CDC, No Boundaries Coalition, Penn North Community Association, and Reservoir Hill Improvement Council assembled this meeting to learn more about the legislation and how communities could help in the campaign.

7th District Councilman Nick Mosby discusses the legislation with meeting participants
There are three components to the legislation:

STEP 1: Phase Out of Residential Liquor Stores License Type: Class A

There are roughly 100 nonconforming liquor stores operating in residential areas.  These are commonly referred to as packaged good stores where alcohol is consumed off-premise only.

Under the proposed legislation, within 2 years of adoption, nonconforming Class A licenses must end sales of alcohol or transfer their license to a properly zoned location in a business district.

STEP 2: Compliance with Tavern Definition License Type: Class BD

These establishments are commonly referred to as taverns.  With a BD-7 liquor license, they are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on and off-site from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

The new code requires that all taverns dedicate at least 50% of their sales and floor to on-site consumption to ensure they operate as a true tavern and not merely a packaged good store.

STEP 3: Set Distance Standards

In the proposed zoning code, new liquor stores will not be permitted within 300 feet of existing liquor stores with the exception of downtown.  Current law already prohibits alcohol outlets within 300 feet of a church or school.


An Action Alert is forthcoming that will show the various actions individuals and organizations can take.

In the meantime, we encourage you to let your city council representative know that you support reducing the density of liquor stores in city neighborhoods, and ensuring that establishments with tavern licenses operate as real taverns, not just packaged goods stores with longer hours.

Join for dinner and a beer here? Let's make tavern be real taverns, not just packaged goods stores with longer hours.

Write a letter stating your support
To learn more about writing a letter to your city council representative, and to get your representatives’ contact information,

Attend a city-forum on 2 April
We recommend you attend the below 2 April forum hosted by Citizens Planning & Housing Association to learn more about the legislation and taking action.

Click here for the April CPHA Forum

1 comment:

Daniel Roberson said...

It’s great to know that your community takes the initiative to educate the public about issues that matter. Discussions like these help encourage active involvement and participation among the citizens. Thanks for sharing, and I hope more people would support your cause!

Daniel Roberson @ MarkBentleyPA