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City Council mulls alcohol policy

July 16, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council is considering whether to allow people to take their own alcohol into some restaurants despite the objections of Washington County's chief liquor official.

On Tuesday, the council discussed whether to let patrons carry their own alcohol into businesses that don't meet the minimum seating requirements to be considered for a liquor license.

Robert L. Everhart, chairman of the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, told the council that businesses are required to have at least 75 seats to be eligible for a liquor license.

He cautioned against the proposal, saying it would be too hard to control alcohol consumption -- particularly among underage customers.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said she supported the idea.

Haywood, who owns the Skyline Coffee Co. on Public Square, said businesses that are too small to obtain a liquor license lose revenue when patrons can't drink alcohol with their meals.

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Haywood suggested businesses should have to register with the city to participate in the program. In addition, at least one manager or employee of a business should have to take the Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) course, she said.

The TAM course teaches retailers about selling and serving alcohol responsibly.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said should the proposal be approved, the measure should permit customers to take only beer and wine into businesses.

"I don't see anyone bringing a fifth of vodka or Jack Daniel's," he said.

The discussion started with Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith telling the council it should consider an ordinance to ban "bottle clubs," or places to which people take their own alcohol for consumption.

Smith said bottle clubs hinder public safety.

"We want to ensure they don't become a nuisance to the neighborhood," he said.

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