Over the past few months, MALA has convened weekly phone meetings to discuss COVID-19 and its impact on Maryland businesses. These strategies - suggested through collaboration across jurisdictions - provide general guidance as the state reopens.
They are by no means legally binding; rather, they represent words of advice. Contact MALA if you are interested in participating in these discussions.
Over the coming months, we'll be hearing a lot from the state and local leaders, and some the information and guidance we receive may be contradictory. Think through your strategies carefully, and know that collaboration across agencies will yield community-specific results that will fit into the broader picture.
This is a new area of responsibility for liquor boards. Collaborate with local businesses to make this happen. For example, provide signage and other support as restaurants expand to open air seating.
This one is important! Consult with your Liquor Board attorney to insure that any strategies formulated pass the legal test.
Establishments should not accept an expired driver's license as proof of age. COVID-19 could change the scenario. Be sure to ask extra questions:
Have your licensees check with their local insurance agencies to make sure they are covered, particularly if they're expanding to outdoor seating.
While strategies need to be created and implemented collaboratively, one agency needs to take the lead. Make sure that the Health Department takes a key role in policy and programmatic implementation. Ensure open communication among your law enforcement agency, health department, and liquor board.
Many communities have integrated ID scanners to prevent underage alcohol purchases. Regulators say that there may even be an uptick of using fake IDs because young people feel that retailers and restaurants may be checking less due to current circumstances. When using scanners, a concern is touching IDs. One county affirmed that they place scanners on a stand which streamlines and eliminates the need for retailers to touch any form of identification.
On another note, remember that point of sale (POS) scanners ONLY decode what is on an ID. You need a scanner that ACTUALLY decodes state information.
This is an interesting challenge - given COVID-19 realities. The approval process varies from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction. Some tell us that outdoor entertainment requests need to come before the Liquor Board, and others say that this is a zoning issue.Your call!
Every jurisdiction operates differently; suggest that you team up with the local health department regarding how to handle infractions. One jurisdiction will be holding COVID Infraction Hearings where COVID-specific enforcement challenges such as over-capacity, social distancing, and employee mask wearing shall be addressed. Another is integrating the Safety Alliance model, focusing on education first and conducting enforcement checks during late-night hours.
Survey your staff to confirm what they need - masks and other PPE, for example. This is particularly relevant for inspectors.
ORGANIZATIONS & AGENCIES
Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
National Alcohol Beverage Control Association: COVID-19 Resources
National Liquor Law Enforcement Association: COVID-19 Member Advisory
National Restaurant Association: Coronavirus Information and Resources
U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance: Interactive Dialogue - Alcohol & COVID-19: A Dangerous Mix
ARTICLES & PUBLICATIONS
Center for Alcohol Policy.org: "Crisis De-Regulations" Should They Stay or Should They Go?
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