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Blues Fest all clear for beer

May 12, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

The beer will likely be flowing at the Western Maryland Blues Fest, despite a liquor licensing error.

The Western Maryland Blues Fest is applying for the proper type of liquor license in time for its June 3 street festival in downtown Hagerstown.

The festival had a "picnic" license to serve beer at the event. But organizers recently learned "picnic" licenses can only be issued for Sunday events; there is another type of license nonprofits can get to sell alcohol on other days of the week.

Washington County Arts Council Executive Director Barbara Bland said she has picked up an application for the "special Class C license," which needs to be signed by city officials and arts council board members.

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Liquor Board Chairman Donald L. Mellott told her the board will waive its advertising requirement for the new license, Bland said.

For at least 10 years, the Liquor Board had been issuing "picnic" licenses on all days of the week to nonprofits for events such as adult softball league tournaments, festivals and political parties.

About two months ago, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, discovered the law specifies the licenses are for Sundays only.

McKee notified the three-member Board of License Commissioners and gave them a copy of the Maryland Attorney General's Office opinion on the law, which dates to 1965.

But the Liquor Board decided to continue its long-standing practice.

The board reversed its position Thursday, after newspaper stories about the problem. Board members hope to resolve the problem, and make other changes to the county's liquor laws during the 2001 Maryland General Assembly session.

McKee, who chairs the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly, said lawmakers will hold a public hearing on any proposed changes.

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