Board Denies Liquor To Proposed Berlin Store
SNOW HILL — Following a change to state law that now allows retail stores to hold Class D beer, wine and liquor licenses in Berlin and Snow Hill, two businesses applied for the new privilege this week, one in each town. The Board of License Commissioners (BLC) denied both applications Wednesday, citing an overabundance of liquor options in Berlin and concerns with the property in Snow Hill.
The option for privately-owned stores to apply for a Class D license only became available this spring. Already two stores in Berlin, Cheers! and Pitt Stop, have successfully petitioned the BLC for the license, which allows the off-sale of liquor and requires the installation of a 25-seat bar on-site. This week William Brittingham applied for another license in town to be located at 10128 Old Ocean City Boulevard.
Brittingham is the owner of the shopping center in Berlin that included a county-run retail liquor store until last year. At that time, the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) chose to close the Berlin location to consolidate county liquor retail sales at the DLC’s Shore Spirits store located off Route 50. Now that Class D licenses can be applied for privately, Brittingham would like to restore liquor sales to his shopping center.
“I want to re-establish one-stop-shopping there again,” he told the board.
A county liquor outlet had existed in that area from 1986 to 2013 and Brittingham felt that there is still a need for it in the same spot even though Cheers! and Pitt Stop have the new license and are close to his location. Cheers! is only half of a mile away from Brittingham’s proposed site and also located off Old Ocean City Boulevard. But there’s plenty of room for both, according to Hugh Cropper, Brittingham’s attorney.
“We’re here because there’s a public need in this area, in this community and we don’t believe that Cheers! fills that. That’s why we’re here today,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we had to beat anybody to the punch.”
Chris Denny, the owner of Cheers!, disagreed. Denny was the one who led the charge to change the state law to allow privately held Class D alcohol licenses in Berlin and the first to apply for the new privilege. He protested Brittingham’s application, arguing that the need is already filled in the area. Denny also noted that Brittingham knew the county liquor store was leaving the area first and could have made the move to change the state law himself.
“Now they knew before I did, I’m assuming, that their tenant was going to leave. They could have started the process that I did,” said Denny. “I spent a lot of money and a lot of time to make it happen … I feel that the need has been filled with myself and the other new location as well as the county’s location out on the highway.”
The BLC concurred and denied Brittingham’s application. BLC member Marc Scher pointed out that in addition to Cheers!, Pitt Stop and Shore Spirits all offering liquor off-sale nearby, the Atlantic Hotel also has such a privilege and is located less than a mile from Brittingham’s proposed store.
In Snow Hill, another Class D license was applied for and likewise denied. In this case it was the Town Market Basket, located at 308 E. Market Street, which applied for liquor off-sale. That spot already has a beer and wine license and wished to add liquor. Owner TJ Patel has been selling beer and wine there for four years and has received two beverage license violations in that time.
The liquor sales would be a huge boon to the area and would work well with the existing food sales, according to Cropper, who also represented Patel before the BLC.
“So he’s hoping that this will be a nice addition to the food sales, that it will all work complementary to each other,” said Cropper. “It will be sort of a mixed use where you can come park and you can buy liquor, you can buy beer and wine, you can buy your food products.”
Off-sale liquor is definitely needed in that area, Cropper continued, since the county-run liquor retail location located less than a mile away has been confirmed to be closing in September.
Patel received some endorsements for his application, including one from Steve Matthews, former town mayor, who supported the location and said that beer and wine have done well there so far. However, some of Town Market Basket’s neighbors also showed up to protest the application.
“You don’t know what you’re doing to the neighbors,” said Mary Nicholson, a resident of Snow Hill.
Nicholson told the board that Town Market Basket already has issues with just beer and wine sales and is responsible for a lot of trash in the neighborhood.
“I think [Patel’s] got enough going on without giving him more,” Nicholson said.
Several other neighbors protested the application on the grounds that it would be taking business away from the county outlet. The point was rendered moot by the announcement that the location will be closing regardless. Resident Jenny Hall, however, argued that there is no need in Snow Hill.
Town Market Basket was willing to limit the hours of its required bar but the BLC denied the application, citing the concerns of residents among other issues.