Salisbury takes steps to form own liquor control system

Salisbury City Councilman Muir Boda has called for the city to establish its own liquor licensing board following allegations hurled on both sides as to how a license was granted for the National Folk Festival.

Councilman Muir Boda.

“It’s controlling our own destiny,” Boda told the Salisbury Independent on Tuesday.

City officials have been considering such a move since last year, and have discussed it with Delegate Carl Anderton and other members of the Eastern Shore Delegation, as well as the city attorney, he said.

The goal is to have a bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly session that would allow Salisbury to establish its own liquor licensing board, Boda said.

Mayor Jake Day said the concept has been on the city’s legislative priority list to the delegation for the last four years.

“And it’s not precedent-setting,” Day said. “Annapolis has their own.”

Boda said other council members are supportive of the idea as well.

Anderton, who is aware of ongoing tensions between the city and county, said he will introduce a bill on behalf of the city if the mayor and council are all onboard with it.

“It’s sad that it’s gotten to this point,” he said.

Most of the alcohol sales in Wicomico County occur within Salisbury city limits, but the city has no voice in how or to whom licenses are granted, Boda said.

“It is an area that we have little regulatory control over and as the economic center of the region, it is imperative that responsible, professional control over this vital issue is managed by our city for our economic vitality,” he said in a recent Facebook post.

The issue over the National Folk Festival’s beer and wine license came to a head recently after Len N. Foxwell, state Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Chief of Staff, accused County Executive Bob Culver of trying to sabotage the festival in a letter that was copied to members of the news media.

Boda said that after city officials perceived the Wicomico County Board of License Commissioners was dragging its feet on approving a beer and wine license at last year’s event, the city went to Gov. Larry Hogan and then to Franchot whose office ultimately signed off on the license.

The city followed the same procedure this year by bypassing the county board and seeking a license directly from the Comptroller’s Office. But that action resulted in a letter from Culver to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. claiming the city and state acted illegally. Culver’s letter prompted the strongly worded reply from Foxwell.

Boda said Culver’s response to Foxwell’s letter delivered during a news conference Monday was a good indication of how Culver feels about the city. During it, Culver referred to the National Folk Festival as “Salisbury’s festival.”

Boda said Wicomico County should have been a full partner with the city.

“If I were County Executive, I would say ‘what can I do to make this as successful as possible?’” he said.

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