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Clubs get OK to list meal prices

May 24, 2003|By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Private clubs no longer will be barred from advertising their meal prices in Washington County.

The county Board of License Commissioners voted Wednesday to rescind the rule because an assistant Maryland attorney general issued an opinion earlier this month doubting the rule's constitutionality, board member Robert Everhart said.

The board is commonly known as the liquor board.

The long-standing rule originally was intended to prevent the nonprofit clubs from unfairly competing with privately owned restaurants, Everhart said.

When the rule was made, clubs were allowed to run tip jar gambling but restaurants and bars were not, Washington County Club Association President Jack Tritsch said. Now, tip jars are legal at both types of establishments, with a portion of the profits going to charity.

The Club Association has been fighting to have the rule rescinded for four or five years, Tritsch said.

Clubs routinely advertise their menus in the newspaper as a service to members, he said. Now they will be able to list the prices of meals.

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Washington County Delegation Chairman Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said he asked for the advice of the Maryland Attorney General's Office on the issue.

"It is my view that the regulation is of doubtful constitutional validity," Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe wrote in a May 9 letter to McKee. "I have found no case that would support the proposition that a government may impose a blanket ban on communication with respect to prices solely to provide a competitive benefit to other businesses."

Rowe cited a 1996 Supreme Court case that involved a prohibition on advertisement of liquor prices. In that case, the purpose of the ban was to promote temperance.

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