August 8, 2020
CPHA 101: TransForm Baltimore and Existing Alcohol Outlets

CPHA 101: TransForm Baltimore and Existing Alcohol Outlets

CPHA has well covered the effort to reduce alcohol outlet density via the proposed zoning code that the City Council is presently considering, and last week we offered this update on where the City Council currently stands on the portion of the zoning legislation

The Baltimore City Liquor Licensing Board, a dysfunctional state agency, currently suggests that their should be 1 liquor license for every 1,000 city residents, which would amount to a total of about 625 licenses. The reality is that there are currently 1,330 licenses in Baltimore, about twice the number Baltimore should have and some are operating in residential areas.

In 1971, Baltimore recognized the excessive presence of liquor outlets and used zoning to moderate the impact on residential areas. During this process the city deemed Class A “packaged good” stores as “nonconforming uses” if they were located in residential zoned areas. As a result, they were no longer considered an appropriate use for a primarily residential area. Existing stores were allowed to stay, but no new businesses wishing to sell alcohol could establish in those districts. The hope was that the remaining stores would close over time because of their “nonconforming” status. As the current debate over Alcohol Outlet Density Reduction illustrates, many of these stores benefited from near monopoly conditions and still exist today.

City Council Bill 12-0152, known as “TransForm Baltimore,” would use zoning to reduce alcohol outlet density of packaged goods stores by removing non conforming packaged goods stores and removing pseudo taverns that are currently acting as packaged goods stores. So how will this work?

STEP 1: Phase Out of Residential Liquor Stores

License Type: Class A

  • There are roughly 100 nonconforming liquor stores operating in residential areas
  • Commonly referred to as packaged good stores where alcohol is consumed off-premise only.
  • Within 2 years of adoption, nonconforming Class A licenses must end sales of alcohol or transfer their license to a properly-zoned location in a business district.
  • Business owners may request a hardship waiver, receiving an additional 2 years to adhere to the law, but must cease alcohol sales during that time.

STEP 2: Compliance with Tavern Definition

  • License Type: Class BD-7
  • Commonly referred to as taverns.
  • BD-7 liquor licenses are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on-and-off-site from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
  • The new code requires that all taverns dedicate at least 50% of their sales and floor to on-site consumption to ensure they operate as a true tavern and not merely a packaged good store.

Click on this graphic to see the planned impact of TransForm Baltimore on existing liquor establishments: