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Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5) has compiled a series of suggestions that could improve the operations of the county’s Department of Liquor Control and sent them in a letter to new DLC Director Robert Dorfman.
Hucker said the ideas came from a number of sources, including surveying licensees in his district to solicit opinions and suggestions concerning the DLC, as well as an earlier ad hoc committee chaired by Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large).
“I’ve been hearing suggestions from licensees and from regular, ordinary consumers for years,” he said. “The more I looked into it, I realized there were also just other good suggestions that had been studied in even previous task forces going back so many years that had never been acted on.”
Several past suggestions for changes in the DLC would have required state legislation, which has failed to pass.
“There are many things the DLC could be doing that don’t require state legislation,” Hucker said, noting, for example, that the debate over some sort of privatization of the department could go on for years.
“There’s nothing stopping the DLC right now from improving their accountability, their customer service, increasing the competition and broadening their product mix,” he said, “and all those things can be done without state legislation, and they should be done quickly and they should be really focused on that.”
Some improvements have already been put in place, such as a bigger warehouse and larger trucks to increase delivery capacity and personnel changes, which Hucker said have been well received by restaurant owners and operators in his district.
The suggestion Hucker forwarded to Dorfman, who was confirmed by the County Council Jan. 31, include a retail price matching program to better compete with stores in other jurisdictions, “superstores” to offer a larger selection of products, and a new storage facility downcounty to improve delivery service to restaurants in that area.
One idea came from the manager of the Silver Spring DLC store on Colesville Road. His suggestion, according to Hucker, is a dedicated checkout lane and specially trained staff just to serve licensees, not unlike a bank teller who serves only commercial clients.
Hucker also included a suggestion that the DLC “open an after-hours phone hotline and staff an after-hours delivery service to quickly serve licensees who may be running low on products.”
Hucker also pushed for the stores to work with local producers both to increase the number of locally produced beers, wine and liquors and improve the look of the retail stores with inviting, attractive displays.
“People like buying local products,” he said. “They like learning about the wineries that they could drive to in Frederick County or Montgomery County.”
In addition, store managers should be trained to “empower them to greet customers, address questions and make suggestions from a greater breadth of knowledge,” Hucker wrote.
Some of the suggestions could be implemented with little if any additional expense, but if needed, Hucker said the DLC has money they could invest in improvements.
“They’re a revenue-generating operation, so they have their own reserves,” Hucker pointed out, adding that if it increases the number of customers for the DLC, “that’s money well spent.”