PRINCESS ANNE — Restaurants and bars in Somerset County will have an opportunity to expand their food and alcoholic beverage sales by selling beer, wine or liquor to-go if they follow the instructions being sent to them in a letter from the Board of License Commissioners.
This was first allowed last year during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when Gov. Larry Hogan used his emergency powers to allow restaurants and bars that were prohibited from seating patrons indoors to prepare food and have these meals accompanied by cocktails and other drinks for carryout and/or delivery.
The emergency order was lifted July 1 but legislation passed by the General Assembly allowed this practice to continue over the next two years provided local licensing boards approved it.
During the board’s September meeting the regulations adopted in Wicomico County were considered, with additional restrictions that beverages are not only in a sealed container but a closed bag. Those interested in pursuing this will have to apply to the board and be invited to a meeting where the guidelines will be explained.
Board Chair Robert Murphey said so far there have been no requests, and when asking for feedback from one local tavern he was told it’s been closing as early as 8 p.m. so there may not be much demand.
Board attorney William Hall said in Wicomico County "it was a real lifesaver" for some business owners, but he would not be surprised if there are no takers here.
He also believes legislators in a future session to vote to allow the program to continue after June 30, 2023.
To-go alcohol must be accompanied by prepared food, "and not a pack of crackers," Mr. Murphey said, and clubs such as the Elks or American Legion are not eligible. Other requirements include that the person making a delivery must be at least 21 and have completed an alcohol awareness program. There are also limits to the quantity of alcohol sold.
While Wicomico allows to-go sales, Worcester County opted out.