July 6, 2020

For the past 4 months, ABS has closely monitored the COVID-19 pandemic and has been in regular contact with local and state health officials during this very challenging time. The health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority, and we take our responsibility seriously. 

While conditions continue to improve across Montgomery County, this does not mean safety is any less important to us. You are still required to wear a face covering when inside retail businesses, including our stores, and we ask that you continue to practice social distancing and are mindful of the distancing markers that remain in place in our stores. Our employees will continue to wear face coverings, have daily temperature checks and follow enhanced cleaning protocols. Hand sanitizer stations will remain available and Plexiglas shields are still in place to separate customers from employees at checkout. For our licensees, we know your situation is still far from normal and we understand the need for continued flexibility until circumstances change.  

Unfortunately, over the past few days, we have had three employees at our Darnestown Liquor & Wine store test positive for COVID-19. The store has been deep cleaned and sanitized, however, out of an abundance of caution we have closed that store effective immediately. We will update you once a reopening date is established for this store. For an updated list of retail store hours and locations, please visit, www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ABS/stores. 

For answers to common questions regarding retail store hours of operation, licensee impacts, etc., please refer to our list of Frequently Asked Questions below. These answers will be continually updated.

 

Retail Customer FAQs Licensed Business FAQs

 

 

Retail Customer FAQs

 

Are ABS retail stores open for business? 

Yes, with modified hours. Beginning Tuesday, March 17th, we reduced hours of operation at our retail stores in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Stores are now open Monday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sundays. Our Darnestown store is temporarily closed. For a list of retail stores and locations, please click here.

 

How did the County respond when employees at the Darenestown Liquor & Wine store tested positive for COVID-19?

Once employees tested positive for COVID-19, Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) immediately closed the retail store and worked with County health officials to determine the potential risk to customers and other employees. While the store is closed, it is being thoroughly cleaned and sanitized to ensure that it is safe for customers and employees. 

 

Are ABS retail stores adopting any procedures to protect customers from COVID-19?

The cleanliness and safe operation of our retail stores is critical, particularly during this pandemic. In addition to daily cleaning, high traffic areas such as checkout counters and high-touch surfaces such as door handles and knobs are frequently sanitized and plexiglass shields have been installed in each store to create a barrier between consumers and staff at the register. Floor markers and signage reminding customers to engage in social distancing as well as door monitors to limit the number of shoppers at one time are in use. On Monday, April 13th, ABS began requiring customers to wear a face covering when shopping in our stores as part of the County Executive's recent health order.


To further help prevent the spread of coronavirus, beginning on May 1st, all retail employees began daily temperature checks upon arrival at work. Anyone registering a temperature above 99.9 degrees will be sent home on paid leave to monitor their condition as a precaution.  

 

Will our stores still hold in-store tastings or events?

All in-store tastings and events have been canceled indefinitely.

 

Are ABS retail stores offering curbside pick-up or delivery? 

Unfortunately, not at this time. Given the higher level of staff call-outs coupled with the increase in business at many of our stores, we are unable to pull employees off the floor and away from registers at this time. However, we are continuing to look at options to offer curbside pick-up as we know our customers have an interest in this service.  

In terms of delivery, Maryland law allows for the delivery of beer, wine, and spirits by store employees. However, the use of third-party delivery services (e.g., Grub Hub, Uber Eats) are prohibited. Given employee liability concerns, ABS retail stores do not offer delivery. 

With support from ABS, restaurants were recently granted temporary permission to sell and deliver beer, wine, spirits and cocktails to-go during the emergency shutdown. While the new MoCo Eats To-Go Guide is a restaurant directory promoting take out, pick-up, and food delivery options in Montgomery County, you can also contact individual restaurants to see if they are selling or delivering alcohol beverages: https://visitmontgomery.com/restaurant-directory/

 

Are ABS retail stores adopting any procedures to protect customers from COVID-19?

The cleanliness and safe operation of our retail stores is critical, particularly during this pandemic. In addition to daily cleaning, high traffic areas such as checkout counters and high-touch surfaces such as door handles and knobs are frequently sanitized and plexiglass shields have been installed in each store to create a barrier between consumers and staff at the register. Floor markers and signage reminding customers to engage in social distancing as well as door monitors to limit the number of shoppers at one time are in use. On Monday, April 13th, ABS began requiring customers to wear a face covering when shopping in our stores as part of the County Executive's recent health order.

 

Do I need to wear a face covering while shopping?

Yes. On Monday, April 13th, ABS began requiring customers to wear a face covering when shopping in our stores as part of the County Executive's recent health order. In addition, our employees are also required to wear face coverings to protect the health and safety of customers and staff. For additional information regarding the County Executive's health order to wear face coverings, click here (April 9th) and here (April 10th update).  

 

Licensed Business FAQs

Is the ABS office still open?

To limit social interaction and maximize social distance, our offices at 201 Edison Park Drive are currently closed to the public.

  • Most office staff are teleworking and are available via email and phone.
  • The Visitors Entrance/Lobby is closed to the public. Please call 240-777-1999 for assistance.
  • The Communications Center is closed to the public. Please email ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov for assistance.

 

Do restaurants have outdoor seating options?

The County Executive has announced that restaurants may open for outdoor seating only starting June 1. For details on Phase 1 of the reopening, visit Reopening Montgomery.

The County Executive has announced that restaurants may open for outdoor seating only starting June 1. 

Businesses that want to make temporary changes to their outdoor cafes in response to social distancing requirements should submit a COVID-19 Temporary Business Modification Form. Businesses should use the same form if they want to make changes to the inside the building for the next phases of reopening.
If organizations such as property management companies or municipalities want to provide an outdoor seating area that could be used by multiple restaurants, they should complete the COVID-19 Temporary Consumption Area Approval.

For questions, call 240-777-1999 or email ABSLicensing@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov.

 

When will the next Board of License Commissioners meeting be held?

The Board of License Commissioners hearings scheduled for July 16 have been cancelled. Members of the public who wish to attend future online hearings can join the hearing on Teams.

For questions, call 240-777-1999 or email ABSLicensing@montgomerycountymd.gov

Get the agenda at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ABS/resources/files/licensure/hearing/abs-hearing-agenda.pdf. Check this site frequently for updates.

 

How do I contact the Communications Center?

For ordering, questions or concerns, please email ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov.

For questions and concerns only, you can reach one of our specialists at a number listed below:

  • Manning, 240-753-3449; Bobby, 240-753-3763; Erin, 240-753-3277; Adrienne, 240-753-3652; Fikirte, 240-614-3993.

All orders must be placed by either (1) iStore (2) email or (3) fax (240-777-1909). Please note: the communications center is not currently taking orders by phone.

 

Are there any changes to deliveries?

ABS will return back to a five day delivery day beginning the week of June 8, 2020. Any licensees who were affected by the four day deliveries will now be moved back to your original scheduled delivery day.

 

Is the Pick-Up Window open?

ABS is open for licensee pick-ups on the following days/times:
Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Fridays from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
 
Ordering deadlines for day of pick-ups:
All pick-up orders must be completed by 3:00 p.m. (orders must be placed prior to arriving at the ABS Warehouse) so orders can be processed and ready to go by the 3:30 p.m. closing. To place your order, please email ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov or fax 240-777-1900.
 
If you placed an order on iStore and would like to pick it up, you must contact the Communication Center (240-777-1900 or by email ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov) by 3 p.m. with your order number to have it released and ready for your arrival.
 
Maximum numbers of cases that can be picked up at the ABS warehouse:
For orders placed the day prior to pick-up: 150 cases max
For orders placed the day of pick-up: 50 cases max

 

Will ABS continue the Drop and Go policy for deliveries?

ABS will continue the drop and go policy. ABS requires drivers and customers to keep at least six feet from each other during the entire delivery. As such, our drivers are dropping orders in a designated area of the premise, keeping away from both consumers and retail employees, and leave once the delivery has been completed. Our drivers will not stay on-premises for the check-in of product. If you find any invoice discrepancies, please contact the Communications Center at ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov and the discrepancy will be fully researched. If appropriate, a credit will then be issued to you. 


Is the retail store bottle fee in effect for licensees?

ABS will waive the 80 cent bottle fee (liquor/wine) at the ABS Retail Stores as a result of the minimums that will continue to be in place until further notice. ABS has implemented a minimum delivery of five cases of wine/spirits, seven cases of beer, and for kegs- two (2) sixtels, two (2) quarters or one (1) one-half barrel. Minimums can be met with stock or special order items. If your order does not meet the minimum, ABS will not deliver your order until the minimum is reached. If a customer needs stock or special order cases and cannot meet the minimums for delivery, customers can order directly at an ABS Retail Store and pick up product at the store once it has been received. Please note, you will have to pay for the cases at the time of placing the order.


How can I place an order as a licensee?

All orders must be placed by either (1) iStore, (2) email (ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov) or (3) by fax: (240-777-1909). Orders are no longer being taken by phone. Please be sure all orders for delivery are placed in time for your business's scheduled delivery day (by 11:00 AM the day before your scheduled day).
 
The Communication Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The mainline, 240-777-1900, is open for communication, questions, or concerns only. Not for taking orders. You may also reach one of our specialists by email at ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov.

 

Where can I get the product newsletter?

The ABS monthly newsletter is now only available on the licensee portal. ABS is no longer printing hard copies. To view the newsletter, log in to the licensee portal with your account number at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ABS/licensees/portal/

 

Will ABS cancel on-site trainings?

Yes, we have canceled all on-site trainings until further notice. For those businesses mandated to take the ALERT class, the deadline will be extended. If you have any questions, please call our licensing office at 240-777-1999.

 

Have there been any changes to annual alcohol beverage license renewals?

In accordance with the Governor’s order that license periods be extended for 30 days beyond the declared state of emergency, the deadline to submit an alcoholic beverages license renewal application and the deadline to pick up the renewed license have been postponed. Licensees will be informed once new deadlines have been established.
 
In the meantime, businesses should continue to display their 2019 license. The license will not expire on April 30. For questions, call 240-777-1999 or email ABSLicensing@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov. Although the deadline has been postponed, businesses may still submit a renewal application through the online portal or by mail.
 
  • The online portal can be accessed at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/ABS/licensure/license/. Use your iStore login. If you are not an iStore user, create a new account.
  • Paper applications with a check for the renewal fee may be mailed to Alcohol Beverage Services, Licensure Regulation, and Education, 201 Edison Park Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20878.

 

Can restaurants now sell and deliver beer, wine and spirits for off-premise consumption? 

The Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners has approved a resolution to allow restaurants to sell beer, wine and spirits to-go during this emergency shutdown. Businesses must apply for approval. For the application, click here

Approved Resolution:

While the Governor’s order to close all restaurants as a part of the catastrophic health emergency remains in effect, all restaurants licensed by the Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners may sell sealed containers of beer, wine, and liquor (for those with a qualifying liquor license) for off-premises consumption along with a takeout or delivered meal. This permission includes any type of sealed container, including bottles, cans, growlers, crowlers, and takeout cups with lids for off-premises consumption. This permission expires when the emergency order to close restaurants is lifted. Businesses may deliver beer, wine and liquor to Montgomery County addresses along with a meal using their own staff. State law prohibits the delivery of alcohol by a third party, such as Grubhub or Uber Eats.

 

I’m an on-premise retailer that had an order canceled. Do I need to re-order after I’m approved to sell or deliver beer and wine?

We previously canceled all open sales orders and open purchase orders for on-premise only accounts due to Governor Hogan’s executive order to close all restaurants and bars (with the exception of carry-out, drive-thru and delivery service). With the new permissions for a delivery permit for on-premise licensees, any items that your account will need must be re-ordered via iStore, email (ABS.CommunicationCenter@montgomerycountymd.gov) or fax (240-777-1909). Please keep in mind that we have implemented a minimum delivery of five cases for wine and seven cases of beer during this pandemic, however, we will waive the 80-cent bottle fee for wine at ABS retail stores.

 

How do I reschedule my One Day Special License?

One Day Special License events that have already been submitted or approved by the Board of License Commissioners may be rescheduled to another date at no additional cost. Contact our licensing office at 240-777-1999 to amend your license. Please note: per order of the Governor of the State of Maryland, we cannot approve licenses for gatherings of more than 10 people, including social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings until further notice.

 

Where can I find the Governor's Executive Orders Regarding COVID-19? 

They can be found by visiting https://governor.maryland.gov/covid-19-pandemic-orders-and-guidance/