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Lawmakers consider boosting Md. wineries

November 19, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly is considering whether to introduce legislation that would make it easier for Maryland wineries to operate.

On Wednesday, members of the delegation, the Board of (Liquor) License Commissioners for Washington County and Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, met in downtown Hagerstown to discuss creating legislation that, if passed, would create a Class W license.

Among other things, the license would allow wineries to serve food.

"We're trying to set regulations that are applicable to wineries only," Atticks said. "We cannot progress under existing liquor laws."

As it stands, wineries in Maryland cannot serve food on their premises, Atticks said. Wineries operate under regulations that are geared more toward liquor stores than agricultural destinations that serve a unique product and promote tourism, he said.

Richard Seibert, managing partner of Knob Hall Winery in Clear Spring, said he would like to sell cheese that is produced by a local farmer, but cannot under the existing regulations. The new license, he said, would permit him to sell the cheese and, at the same time, help promote another business.

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Robert L. Everhart, chairman of the liquor board, said after the meeting that he thought Washington County liquor officials could work with winery owners.

"We're not against a W license," he said.

Everhart said he opposed a part of the license that would allow wineries to open at 10 a.m. He said he would support noon instead.

Only three of the eight members of the Washington County delegation -- Dels. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, and George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington -- attended the meeting.

Shank said he would like more information, but could put his support behind the legislation.

"I think it sounds like an excellent idea," he said. "It represents some wonderful opportunities in Washington County."

If everything goes well, the legislation could be introduced next year, Shank said.

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