Joseph F. Snee, Jr., a shareholder with Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, P.A., led the efforts on 2 alcoholic beverages bills during the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
The first bill, House Bill 795, entitled “Harford County-Alcoholic Beverages-Waiver From School Distance Restrictions” allows the Liquor Control Board for Harford County to waive the school distance requirements. Under current law, a liquor licensee must be 1,000 feet from a school. However, the Liquor Control Board may reduce that 1,000 foot distance to 300 feet. Under the legislation drafted by Snee, the Liquor Control Board may now waive the school distance requirement from 1,000 feet to 0 feet for a Class B restaurant license or a Class B café license. Before the Board decides to waive the 1000 foot restriction distance, a public hearing must be held by the applicable local jurisdiction in which the license is sought (Town of Bel Air, the City of Aberdeen, the City of Havre de Grace or Harford County) on the waiver request. After the hearing, the governing body makes a recommendation to the Liquor Control Board regarding whether the distance restriction should be waived. The final decision regarding the waiver is made by the Liquor Control Board for Harford County.
The second bill, House Bill 485, entitled “Harford County-Alcoholic Beverages-Common Direct or Indirect Sharing of Profit”, deals with percentage rent clauses in commercial landlord-tenant leases. A percentage rent clause allows the Landlord to receive additional rent once the gross sales of a restaurant for food and alcohol exceed a certain dollar amount. Under existing law, if a landlord has a percentage rent clause in the lease with the tenant, the landlord is considered to have an interest in the liquor license of the tenant, preventing the tenant from obtaining a liquor license in Harford County. Under Snee’s legislation, the “common direct or indirect sharing of profit” provision was eliminated from the alcoholic beverages law of the State of Maryland. The percentage rent provisions will no longer violate Maryland law.
Both House Bill 795 and House Bill 485 are awaiting Governor Hogan’s signature. Both will become law on July 1, 2017.