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License Board approves two Berlin outlets for liquor sales

BERLIN–Berlin will be getting not just one, but two venues to purchase liquor within town limits.
Cheers, near the northernmost end of town at the intersection of North Main Street and Old Ocean City Boulevard, and the Pitt Stop Beer, Wine and Liquor, on the southernmost end of town on Route 113, were approved for the sale of liquor during the Board of License Commissioners hearing in Snow Hill on Wednesday.
The county dispensary used to be in Berlin at the Food Lion Shopping Center, but it closed this year after the opening of Shore Spirits, the county’s new liquor store, on Route 50 east of Stephen Decatur High School.
Many people, including Mayor Gee Williams, wanted the town to have a liquor store, so bills to allow it were introduced in both houses of the Maryland General Assembly this past session. The bill, signed by the governor, authorized the Board of License Commissioners to issue a Class D beer, wine and liquor license within the corporate limits of Berlin and Snow Hill. The original bill had included Pocomoke City, but its mayor and Town Council asked that it be excluded because they did not want more liquor stores in the area.
Cheers owner Chris Denny had retained attorney Joe Moore to work toward the change in legislation to permit the liquor sales in Berlin. John Derrickson also wanted to add liquor to his inventory at the Pitt Stop, which opened last year selling beer and wine.
The two men saw no conflict in their requests or in retaining Moore as their legal representative, so Moore represented both at Wednesday’s hearing.
It is 1.6 miles from Cheers to Pitt Stop and that is the entire length of the town of Berlin, Moore said.
Cheers is also 2.1 miles west of the county’s new liquor store, known as Shore Spirits, on Route 50. Its location at the north end of town is convenient for residents and visitors in Berlin and it is more convenient than going to the county store, he said. If a customer purchases wine or liquor at Shore Spirits, he must travel east on Route 50 and during times of heavy traffic, must continue east to Route 589, which is nearly a mile from the store, to make a U-turn to return to Berlin. A Berlin customer, therefore, would have to travel 2.5 miles round trip to buy a bottle of liquor.
Permitting sales of liquor at Cheers would alleviate that inconvenient trip and would therefore serve the accommodation of the public, Moore said.
Liquor sales also need to be permitted at the Pitt Stop to accommodate the public, he said.
Pitt Stop manager Laurie Walsh said customers want to be able to buy liquor there.
“We have people come in every day and ask [for liquor],” she said.
She has had to give them directions to the county store, which usually means they must drive back to that store, purchase liquor, and then resume their drive. Many of their customers are campers going to Assateague Island, Castaways near West Ocean City, or Island Resort Campground in Newark.
Traveling on Route 113, motorists will find no liquor stores between Pomeroys in Selbyville, Del., and Pocomoke. A county liquor store is on Market Street in Snow Hill and can be seen from Route 113, but it is closing and there are no plans to replace it.
“Cheers is serving the downtown folks and you’re serving visitors to the area,” Moore told Derrickson and Walsh.
Board members voted in favor of both requests for the upgrade in the alcoholic beverage licenses from beer and wine licenses to beer, wine and liquor licenses.
The bill permitting Class D licenses in town limits becomes effective July 1, so any time after that date Cheers and the Pitt Stop Beer, Wine and Liquor may sell bottles of liquor. To comply with the law, however, each must have a full service bar with a minimum of 25 seats. The owners intend to fulfill that requirement.
The Atlantic Hotel in Berlin has a Class B alcoholic beverage license with off-sale privileges for liquor, but it has no package goods facility and would sell bottles at its retail price, which is much higher than the cost of a usual package goods sale, Moore said.