Legal Blog

Saturday SideBar: Getting Started in the Alcoholic Beverage Business in Maryland

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. In Maryland, if you’re thinking about getting into the alcoholic beverage business in some way, shape or form, it’s recommended that you begin your research by visiting the website maintained by the Maryland Alcohol Licensing Association (MALA). MALA began under another name in 1961 with the stated mission of promoting and improving the services provided by the various local alcoholic beverage administration offices throughout the state, develop relationships and suggest legislation.

Interestingly, the first question on the FAQ area of the MALA page that links out to local licensing ordinances and legislation is: “Do I need a license to sell alcohol?” I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a lawyer, but I think that’s funny. It reminds me of a second-hand story I heard about a famous hip-hop artist inquiring of an attorney in Virginia about selling his brand of liquor and being shocked to hear he needed a license and what it takes to get one. The other FAQs are more understandable.

In Maryland, there are many different types of licenses you can obtain, and the type that is right for you will obviously depend on what you are planning to do. In Maryland, there are state laws and county or city regulations, all of which require compliance. Therefore, the first thing you probably need to know is where you plan to locate your business.

From there, you need to think about what you want to do. If you are going to ship alcoholic beverages out of the state, or purchase from out-of-state for sale within the state, then the state will have to permit you to do that. If you are going to be a manufacturer, i.e., a distiller, brewer or winemaker, there are many different possible license classes that you can consider based on what type of business you envision. Whether you obtain the license you want will depend on your local regulations.

For example, breweries are subdivided into Classes 5 – 8 (breweries, pub breweries, micro-breweries and farm breweries). Distillers may have full or limited licenses (Classes 1 and 9), or rectifying licenses (Class 2). Wineries are subdivided into Classes 3 and 4, full and limited.

Then there are a multitude of various types of wholesaler’s licenses, depending on what you want to sell, when and where. Then within each county, there are all sorts of nuances, restrictions, and conditions that have evolved asynchronously over time so that there is a patchwork of regulations, which can be tricky if, for example, you want to manage a business that has different locations in different counties. In some cases, you may not be able to have more than one location of the same name.

Let’s start with an example that involves beer, or “malt beverages” as the fed calls them. So what if I want to make and sell my own beer and the beer of others? Stay tuned.

For more information on this topic, please contact Scott Lloyd at


ABOUT SCOTT LLOYD | 301.575.0357

Scott Lloyd is a registered patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property counseling and commercialization work. He has served as a technology commercialization specialist and advisor to companies in a diverse array of markets, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and beverage, specialty chemicals, technology, and engineering. In addition, Mr. Lloyd spent ten years as in-house general counsel to small and mid-sized companies, where he managed corporate matters and resolved commercial disputes in addition to intellectual property strategy, and now serves in the same capacity for entrepreneurial clients. He serves as counsel to small and mid-sized business owners seeking to implement growth strategies and succession plans.

While in house, Mr. Lloyd has also contributed to the successful formation of international affiliates of domestic businesses as well as a $400,000,000 business acquisition.




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