Montgomery County's Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS), formerly the Department of Liquor Control, is a government agency in Montgomery County, Maryland. Founded in 1961, ABS enforces not only alcoholic beverages but tobacco use. As of 2021, ABS employs over 400 employees and has an annual budget of $264 million. The agency conducts inspections and surveillance of licensed facilities to ensure compliance with state and county laws and regulations at over 1,000 licensed facilities. In addition, they conduct hotel and motel surveillance to discourage room service and off-premises delivery to minors. The tobacco enforcement program includes the same investigations but has fewer facilities to monitor as the county reports only 800 Maryland State Retail Cigarette licensed facilities within the county.
ABS enforces the rules, laws, and regulations of all applicable Maryland and Montgomery County laws regarding alcoholic beverages and tobacco sales/ use. One of the main ways the agency does so is by issuing licenses to businesses that wish to sell alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.
Types of licenses
There are several types of licenses available for selling alcohol. Specifically, there are two variations of Class B licenses and two variations of Class D licenses.
Applicants who apply for a Class B license are restricted to selling only beer and wine unless they are a hotel. However, hotels with a Class B license can sell beer, wine, and liquor. The requirements for the two variations of Class D licenses are similar to those of Class B. Taverns, specialty shops, and packaged goods stores holding Class D licenses are permitted to sell beer and wine exclusively. On the other hand, other businesses with Class D licenses can sell beer, wine, and liquor. Still, consumption of these beverages is not allowed on their premises.
Class H licenses are issued explicitly to hotels and restaurants. All licensed businesses, regardless of their license type, are subject to time restrictions for alcohol sales. For example, spirit stores can sell alcohol from Monday through Thursday, between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm, and until 10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Beer and wine stores can sell alcohol every day of the week, from 10:00 am to 1:00 am.
A list of the most common licenses can be found on the charts below. The type of alcohol license an applicant applies for depends on the type of business they are in and the type of alcohol they plan on distributing. A full list of County alcohol licenses can be found here.
Services and Programs
Montgomery County's Alcohol Beverage Services Department offers many different programs and services. On its website, Alcohol Beverage Services posts wine tastings in the Montgomery County area. There are often multiple events every day and even more on the weekend. They also have a Highly Allocated (HAL) program, which is comprised of special releases of products, including sought-after bourbons, whiskies, and other small-batch spirits. Customers can purchase HAL products released on the second Saturday of each month on a first-come, first-served basis.
To maximize fairness, customers are not permitted to place a hold on HAL products.
ABS also has a program titled Keeping It Safe (KIS). It is a public education campaign geared towards the hospitality industry and the community with educational material on safely hosting alcohol-free events under 21.
ABS also oversees the Tobacco Enforcement Program in Montgomery County, which ensures that businesses with retail cigarette licenses comply with the county's laws regarding distributing tobacco products to minors and the proper placement of tobacco products. Specialists from the Board of Alcohol/Tobacco Enforcement conduct surveillance investigations at licensed facilities in Montgomery County. If violations are found, the specialists have the authority to issue civil citations to the retail cigarette license holders and their clerks for any infringements related to the distribution and display of tobacco products.
In addition to issuing citations, these specialists play a crucial role in the legal process. They must appear in District Court and provide testimony regarding the tobacco civil citations they have issued. This ensures that the enforcement process is properly carried out and that any penalties or consequences are appropriately addressed. To assist retailers in understanding and following the regulations, the ABS publishes the Responsible Tobacco Retailing Guide, which serves as a resource to help businesses comply with the laws and create an environment that promotes responsible tobacco sales and marketing practices.
How to Contact ABS
There are a variety of ways you could contact ABS. You could sign up for their weekly newsletter for sales, specials, new products, limited availability items, and community news. You could call their telephone directly. Their phone number is (240) 777-1900, and they are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.