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October 19, 2009

Behind-the-scenes bar stories: I'll take that!

look at all these bottles of liquor!Here at Midnight Sun, we spend a lot of time discussing bars and clubs from the patron's point of view.

But I don't think we dig too deeply into the business side of the entertainment industry. I'm going to try and change that in the next couple weeks.

Let's start with an interesting factoid that, if you don't own a bar, you probably aren't aware of: Bars have to purchase all their booze from a licensed state distributor.

If a bar owner runs out of Pabst Blue Ribbon (which should never be a problem), the manager can't just run to the nearest liquor store and buy some more. If they get caught doing it, bad things happen.

Take, for example, the case of the AIG Lounge, at 291 S. Pulaski St.

Talk about a bar with an unfortunate name, by the way. Back in January, liquor board inspectors paid a visit to AIG Lounge, where they discovered that none of the booze behind the bar came from a licensed distributor.

Uh oh ...

All in all, inspectors confiscated 281 bottles of distilled spirits, three bottles of wine and 1060 containers of beer. Ouch!

A quick aside: How annoying is it to count all 1060 bottles and cans of beer? Unless, of course, the inspectors were tallying them as they drank them! I jest, I jest.

Also, what happens to all this confiscated booze? [Insert joke about late night liquor board raver.] 

Anyhow, the AIG Lounge's hearing was last week, but nobody from the bar showed up. They pull one more no-show and their liquor license could be yanked, I'm told.

Cases like this pop up every once in a while, and if it's a first-time, offense, the liquor board usually fines the bar $500. Why such a small fine? Well, the bar already has to replace their entire stock. Adding a $10,000 fine on top of that is overkill, according to liquor board comissioner Stephan Fogleman.

I'll let you know what becomes of the AIG Lounge's case. And stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes bar stories this week.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:14 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


They forgot to do the easiest of bar solutions.. go to another bar, "borrow" what you need, then give it back when your shipment comes in. Most close bar owners around the same area are friends or at least acquaintances, and never run the same sort of drink specials at the same time.

Why make the lounge AIG?

in the Byzantine world of Maryland liquors law, I know I shouldn't even ask this but I will: Why? Why can't you buy your liquor from any state regulated source?

Good lord, the liquor lobby controls everything alcohol related in this state.

Yes why is this the law other than in providing distributors with a steady income?

I'd love to hear from the liquor board how this benefits the public. I'd also love to hear from a distributor how this benefits the public.

What I don't understand is why it's illegal for a bar to get liquor from a MD liquor store. A bottle of Canadian Club from a liquor store comes from the same distributor as the bar orders from. I understand why they wouldn't want them getting it out state (taxes).

Why does it matter where they buy their liquor as long as they have the invoices or receipts to verify where they bought their stock?

All in all, inspectors confiscated 281 bottles of distilled spirits, three bottles of wine and 1060 containers of beer.

Three bottles of wine? Sounds like a classy place. Let me guess the wines: red, white and pink.

Looking forward to more Behind the Music – Bar Tales. Remember, exactly halfway through the week you must utter these fateful words: "And then tragedy struck."

Hahahah yes!

I've written about the "wine list" at BAR before.

The wine list at AIG Lounge was probably along the same lines.

And then tragedy struck.

Now, I wonder if AIG has a wine list at all. What a shame.

Hee hee.


Simple Answer : $$$$$

Distrbutors give lots of money to lobbyists and lawmakers to keep this in place.

its all about the $$$$.

It's a dated, inefficient system, going back to just after prohibition, to control the liqour, but it isn't going to change because there is too much money involved now. It's big business.

All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much thicker in the middle and then thin again at the far end. That is my theory, it is mine, and belongs to me and I own it, and what it is too.

Sure, money is the answer to 50% of questions.Why is the LB punishing businesses if they buy from distrbutors directly or indirectly. Taxes are collected equally.

It seems like more common sense is needed. Duh.

It's also absurd that distributors get a monopoly on products. Bad for businesses, bad for consumers. Want Kahlua? You can only get it from one place. No competition on price.

Maybe there are separate taxes on the alcohol when sold from distributor to bar. If the tax is higher (and they have to buy the booze with the higher tax) they make more money per bottle.

Just a guess.

It's hard to imagine that state taxes could be less when it goes through an extra set of hands, the retailer. I believe that all federal taxes are paid at the distillery, brewery, winery or upon importation.

When I worked in NYC we went to the liquor store all the time to get stuff we ran out of. Think it was probably harder to enforce this there due to the sheer number of establishments.

I worked at a private place downtown for 3 years, and we definitely made the liquor-store run many times when we realized we didn't have enough of something for a party. We also borrowed from a similar place across the street a few times, a tip a previous commenter already mentioned. I guess since it's a small, private place, the liquor board didn't watch us too closely.

I don't have an answer for why distributors must supply the alcohol. It is state law and has been since before most of us were born.

The Comptroller's office does the monitoring and the seizing. Their office files the charges and we hear the cases. So, if you want some Pabst for the Social, I suggest you contact Comptroller Franchot's office. I jest!

Aw, Mr. LiquorBoarding Man, YOU don't have an answer? There were anti-miscegenation laws before most of us were born, but they've been overturned.

Mr. LiquorBoarding Man doesn't make the laws, he just enforces them. Respect his authoritie!!!

Mr. LiquorBoarding Man doesn't make the laws, he just enforces them

I wonder about that. What things are laws and what are regulations? State agencies can create and change regulations that have the force of law. I wonder if this agency has that power. Just curious.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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