New State Law Primes Montgomery, Other Counties For Craft Spirits

A Bethesda Magazine article (2106-10-05) reported that a recent change in state law allows small-scale distillers can self-distribute their craft spirits directly to alcohol license holders (such as restaurants and bars). The change is designed to promote regional distilleries, which like wineries and craft breweries, have seen significant growth in recent years. According to the article, the law applies to distillers who produce less than 100,000 gallons of liquor per year and they can only self-distribute less than 27,5000 gallons per year. The article highlighted the law’s effect in Montgomery County. From the article:

“Montgomery County, I’ll say, should be one of the best craft liquor markets in the state given the demographics and the proximity to Washington, D.C., and we’ll see in a couple of months if it comes to fruition,” Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Distillers Guild, said Tuesday.

The law allows distillers that produce less than 100,000 gallons of alcohol annually to obtain a $100 special state license. That license will allow them to sell their products directly to local restaurants and bars without having to go through a distributor such as the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC) or to obtain a much more expensive $1,750 state wholesalers’ license. …

“It really gives them a jump start into the market so they can build their brand at their own pace,” Atticks said. “Then they can send their book of accounts to a distributor who can really expand the market.”In Montgomery, the DLC controls the wholesale distribution of all liquor as well as most beer and wine products. A similar state law change two years ago allowed craft breweries to distribute directly to retail stores and restaurants and was credited with leading to more craft breweries opening in the county. However, the new law will not allow distilleries to sell to the county’s privately owned beer and wine stores because they are not licensed to sell liquor; only the 25 county-owned stores can do so. …

The DLC supported the legislation as it made its way through the General Assembly earlier this year.

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