For the past four months, ABS has closely monitored the COVID-19 pandemic and has been in regular contact with state and local 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. We have implemented numerous safety precautions in our offices, retail stores, within our warehouse and during licensee deliveries to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

While conditions have improved within Montgomery County, this does not mean safety is any less important to us. We have implemented critical safeguards, social distancing practices, and stringent cleaning protocols. Our stores continue to operate on a modified schedule and our warehouse has made changes to its policies to continue providing top-notch service. We know that things are still far from normal and we thank you for allowing us to serve you.

For answers to common questions regarding our retail stores, licensee impacts, etc., please refer to our list of Frequently Asked Questions below. These answers are updated on a regular basis.

 

Retail Customer FAQs Licensed Business FAQs

 

 

Retail Customer FAQs

 

Are your 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 pandemic. Stores are currently open Monday - Saturday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sundays. For a list of retail stores and locations, please click here.

 

What new procedures have you adopted to protect customers from COVID-19?

The cleanliness and safe operation of our retail stores is critical. In addition to daily cleaning, high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces 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. Face coverings and frequent hand-washing are required for all employees. Plus, in our stores, shoppers must also wear a face covering. 

To further prevent the spread of coronavirus, all retail employees undergo daily temperature checks upon arrival at work. Anyone registering a temperature above 99.9 degrees is sent home on paid leave to monitor their condition as a precaution.

We continue to follow all CDC, state, and local health official guidance.   

 

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 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).  

 

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

No. For the health and safety of our customers and employees, all in-store tastings and events have been canceled indefinitely.

 

Do your stores offer curbside pick-up or delivery? 

Unfortunately, no, 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/

 

What happens if/when a store employee tests positive for COVID-19?

When ABS is notified that a store employee has tested positive for Covid-19, we take a number of immediate actions to protect the health and safety of our customers and employees. 

  • We immediately reach out to have the store deep cleaned by a professional team.  This either happens that same day or the next morning before the store opens.  This deep cleaning involves chemical fogging and manual wiping down of all products and high contact surfaces in the store.
  • We require each employee in the affected store to contact the County Disease Control Hotline where a decision is made regarding their need to quarantine and/or get tested for COVID-19.  Note: this process is at the direction of the County Health Department.
  • We stay in contact with all affected employees throughout this process and should we have an instance where multiple employees test positive or we lack the staffing required to operate a store, we may decide to close the affected store for an appropriate amount of time.  
  • We deeply value transparency and whenever the decision is made to close a store, a press release is issued and information is communicated on our website and via social media. However, we are very limited in what exactly we can share in regard to employees who test positive due to Federal HIPPA Law. We are as transparent as we can possibly be while remaining within those guidelines.

We have numerous safety guidelines in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, however, we know that nothing is 100% effective. In addition to daily cleaning, high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces 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. Face coverings are required for all employees and customers and our employees have a very detailed policy on handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, and the use of hand sanitizer to help protect them and the public. To further prevent the spread of coronavirus, all retail employees undergo daily temperature checks upon arrival at work. Anyone registering a temperature above 99.9 degrees is sent home on paid leave to monitor their condition as a precaution.

Each situation is different, is closely monitored, and situations can change quickly based on new information received. While many private-sector retailers do not go close their stores in these situations, we are affiliated with the government and go above and beyond what is required.

 

 

Licensed Business FAQs

Is the ABS office still open?

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.

 

How do I contact the Communications Center and/or how do I place orders?

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

For questions and concerns only, you can also reach one of our specialists at 240-777-1900.

All orders must be placed by either (1) iStore (2) email or (3) fax (240-777-1909). Please note: The Communications Center is no longer taking orders by phone.

 

Is the Pick-Up Window open?

Yes, We are 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 240-777-1909.
 
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

 

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 did 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.

 

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

The Board of License Commissioners hearings scheduled for October 1 will be held by teleconference. Members of the public who wish to attend can join the hearing on Teams.

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
+1 443-692-5768   United States, Baltimore (Toll)
Conference ID: 720 861 712#

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.

What is the guidance for live music?

Montgomery County will remain in Phase 2 as the State moved to its Phase 3 reopening, which went into effect on Friday, September 4 at 5:00 p.m. Venues such as indoor and outdoor food service establishments, breweries, and wineries may now include live performances as part of their dining experience under the following requirements:

  • Live performances that are part of the dining experience are permitted. Performances include live music in restaurants.
  • Live performers include DJs and buskers.
  • Dancing or congregating in front of the performers is prohibited.
  • Individuals present during a live performance must still wear masks unless they are eating or drinking (and they must be seated while eating and drinking).

For further information on live performances visit: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/reopening/requirements/concerts-theaters.html

 

Will you continue your Drop and Go delivery policy?

Yes. We require 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 premises, 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?

No, we are waiving the 80-cent bottle fee (liquor and wine) at our retail stores since delivery minimums will continue until further notice. ABS implemented a minimum delivery of four 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 one of our retail stores and pick up product at the store once it has been received. Please note, you will have to pay for the cases when placing the order.

 

Where can I get the product newsletter?

The ABS monthly newsletter is 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/

 

Are you still conducting training sessions?

ALERT is held online from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month (except if the Monday falls on a holiday). Register online.

 

Can restaurants have indoor and outdoor seating?

The County Executive has announced that restaurants may open for outdoor seating and indoor seating at 50% capacity. For details on Phase 2 of the reopening, visit Reopening Montgomery.

Businesses that want to make temporary changes to indoor layout or 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.

 

Can restaurants now sell and deliver beer, wine and spirits for off-premises 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.


Can restaurants serve alcohol after 10 p.m.?

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has amended Executive Order 87-20 to include additional measures to protect the public from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Amended Executive Order, which took effect at noon on August 5, forbids the service of alcohol by restaurants after 10 p.m.
 
The change for the service of alcohol comes following contact tracing data released by the State that indicates people congregating in establishments later in the evening have higher instances of physical contact and limited social distancing.

Off-premises sales of alcoholic beverages in sealed containers accompanying a food order may continue during legal sales hours for alcoholic beverages. On-premises food consumption may continue after 10:00 p.m. until the business closes.

Get the full press release at https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=25677.
Get the executive order at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/exec/Resources/Files/orders/087-20.pdf.



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/

 

Updated 7/30/20

 

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