Poll Shows Strong Support for Supermarket Beer and Wine Sales

    The legislative fights over Maryland’s liquor laws can be arcane ― even when they become politically charged.

    But the idea of legalizing supermarket sales of beer and wine seems pretty straightforward ― something Marylanders can readily understand. And perhaps, unsurprisingly, they support the idea in strong numbers.

    Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws (MBBWL), a group that has been working on reforming alcohol laws since 2005, released a poll that found Maryland residents favor legalizing chain store alcohol sales by a 2-1 margin. Survey respondents cited greater convenience followed by lower prices as their top reasons for supporting this change.

    “We have been working to legalize chain store sales since 2012 because it is the #1 issue for our members,” said Adam Borden, MBBWL’s president.

    Today, 98% of Americans can buy beer in a grocery chain and 85% can buy wine. Maryland is one of only three states that prohibits grocery beer sales and one of 10 states that prohibits wine grocery sales.

    The survey found 71% of Marylanders support beer in chain stores and 73% support wine in chain stores. Support for legalizing chain store liquor sales (56%) is as great as for legalizing table gaming (52%) and recreational marijuana (57%).

    While it isn’t clear whether there will be legislation introduced in 2021 to permit alcohol sales in Maryland chain stores, MBBWL is attempting to advance the argument that doing so will result in a windfall for state coffers at a time when Maryland faces budget shortfalls and potential spending cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Legalizing chain store alcohol sales could significantly help balance Maryland’s budget,” the group said in a statement. “After reviewing alcohol licensing fees in other states, MBBWL developed a licensing formula that could generate $200 million in direct economic benefit to Maryland. An older estimate developed by Sage Policy Group in 2012 estimated the effect of legalized chain store sales at $100 million Maryland and almost 500 net new jobs.”

    When asked in the survey where newfound revenue should go, women primarily wanted the money to fund education (33%) while men wanted better health care (36%).

    The poll of 251 adults was conducted July 25-29 by 1st Tuesday Campaigns, a national consulting firm that specializes in ballot initiatives. It had a 5-point margin of error.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.