Welcome to Maryland! This is the “Free State,” where you can’t buy yourself a scrumtulescent Belgian ale alongside that wonderful steak you found at the grocery store, but feel free to buy a bottle of whiskey to wash down your Vicodin when you’re at the drug store!
Yesterday you may have read my daring journalistic exposé on why you can’t take your growler from one store in AA County to another. However, you more likely read the wonderful summary/commentary of my post written by the lovely Liz, over at Naptown Pint. A few comments on her post eventually led to the following question. Why can you buy alcohol at a pharmacy in Maryland, but not at a grocery store? Now let’s not get into the reasoning behind this ban just yet, but let’s look at the following response from a representative of Boulevard Brewing Company:
— Boulevard Heff (@BLVD_Heff) November 18, 2013
Now I outright disagree with this claim. I have lived in multiple states where it was legal to buy beer and wine in a grocery store. In each of those states there were many locally owned liquor stores that also specialized in rare and unique wines and beers. I’ve also lived in other countries where it was legal to buy not only beer and wine but also liquor at a grocery store. Those countries also have liquor stores that are doing just fine!
When I lived in these places I would pick up my session beers or cheaper beer for parties at the grocery store. When I wanted good beer I went to the liquor store. Grocery stores don’t carry the variety or the specialty beers that many beer drinkers want. People will still go to a specialty beer store to get the good stuff.
And why would places like Fishpaws or Annebeth’s sell food if the argument were true that these stores can’t compete with grocery stores? The reason is that these stores sell specialty gourmet foods that you’re not going to find at every grocery store. The same can be said for the beer and wine selection at these specialty stores. Those of us that want good beer will still seek out these stores, but that doesn’t mean we should be denied the opportunity to purchase alcohol at a grocery store.
These grocery store exclusion laws are protectionist measures. These laws create artificial barriers in the beer market that raise prices for consumers. I’m not saying these laws should be done away with entirely, but there must be some sort of compromise. Finally, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for buying local and I will support my local beer store long before I support a corporate chain, but I never expected to encounter these types of laws when I first moved to the “Free State” of Maryland.