REPEAL: The day selling booze in Maryland became legal again

Famed Baltimore Sun reporter and columnist H.L. Mencken Celebrates Repeal at the Hotel Rennert. Courtesy of Baltimore Sun Archives


Commissioners Speed Plans for Opening of Dispensaries Tonight.

The Evening Star, Dec. 5, 1933

Whiskey will be placed on sale in Montgomery County tonight, it was officially announced by Lacy Shaw, president of the Board of County Commissioners. Sale in Prince Georges County is not expected until Thursday.

Shaw declared, following a conference with Maj. E. Brooke Lee, head of the county Democratic organization, that the three county-operated dispensaries, to be set up at Rockville, Silver Spring, and Bethesda, would be opened as quickly as possible after Gov. Ritchie signed the State-wide liquor control bill this afternoon.

It is expected that Gov. Ritchie will affix his signature to the measure, which was adopted by the State Legislature last night, at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

It was said by Shaw that arrangements had been made to rush a large shipment of whiskey into Montgomery County from Baltimore in collaboration for the opening of the dispensaries, which is expected to attract thousands of Maryland and District customers.

Plan Immediate Opening

The announcement by Shaw came shortly after Maj. Lee had disclosed that preparations were being made for the immediate opening of the dispensaries and that $10,000 worth of revenue stamps had been purchased by the commissioners.

A meeting of the county commissioners is being held in Silver Spring this afternoon to select the personnel and sites for the three places at which the county will sell liquor. A liquor control board also is to be named by the county heads at the session this afternoon.

The disclosure that whiskey would be placed on sale in Montgomery County tonight, came as a distinct surprise. Earlier statements by county officials were to the effect that the dispensary system would begin operation “about January 1”.

Reports that liquor would be placed on sale in Prince Georges County by Thursday are believed to have caused Montgomery officials to speed up preparations for sale of liquor in that jurisdiction in order to share in the pre-Christmas liquor trade.

Sale In Baltimore Tonight

Legal sale of liquor will start in Baltimore tonight if the Liquor Board succeeds in completing all the arrangements by the time Utah ratifies repeal.

Otherwise, sale will start in Baltimore tomorrow.

Outstanding provisions of Maryland’s new law are:

Liquors and fortified wines subject to an excise tax of $1.10 a gallon.

“On sale” licenses, permitting sale by the drink in hotels and restaurants authorized in Prince Georges, Washington, and Baltimore Counties, Baltimore City and Annapolis.

“Taverns” or saloons authorized in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Chesapeake Beach, and North Beach.

St. Marys Permits Saloons

St. Mary’s County passed a law of its own permitting saloons.

“Off-sale” licenses permitting sale by package only permitted in most counties, although some limited package sales to certain sections of their counties.

County dispensaries authorized in Montgomery, Worcester, and Wicomico Counties.


No referendum allowed under the State law, but referendums will be authorized in various local bills to be introduced by Montgomery, Frederick, Anne Arundel, and other delegations.

All inconsistent local and general laws repealed.

Revenue from the various types of licenses to go to the counties in which they are issued and to Baltimore City.

Sale of liquor on Sunday prohibited.

Sale of beer and light wines to be licensed separately from that of liquor in most counties.

Bill Signed Last Night

The bill completed its course through the two branches of the Legislature shortly after 11 o’clock last night when by a vote of 23 to 1 the amendments adopted in the House were concurred by the Senate. Senator J. Allan Coad of St. Mary’s County cast the sole vote against concurring in the House amendments. He fought the bill from the first because of the excise tax.

As in the Senate, the principal fight in the House centered around the $1.10 a gallon excise tax, but the opposition to this and all other features of the bill dwindled as the final roll call neared. It was passed by the overwhelming vote of 84 to 15.

The two Republican Prince Georges County delegates, Oliver Metzerott, and Richard C. Zantzinger voted against the bill, while two Montgomery County delegates, Odorion W. Roby and Miss Lavinia Engle, also voted against it. Roby is an ardent “dry,” while Miss Engle opposed the provision allowing the sale of beer and wine to minors.

Lavinia-Engle-Montgomery-County-Delegate-in-1933. She was a leader in the Suffragette movement and served one term as a delegate before being appointed to the Social Security Administration by President Franklin Roosevelt. Lavinia Engle was a founder of the League of Women Voters and the first woman elected a Montgomery County Commissioner and to be elected as a member of the House from Montgomery.

Delegate Walter W. Dawson, Montgomery County lone Republican delegate, explained his vote for the bill by saying he had been assured by the Democrats that provision would be made for a referendum in the county, by districts, in a local bill to be introduced later.

In explaining his vote, Delegate Metzerott said he opposed it because no provision was made for a referendum by districts or towns in Prince Georges County and predicted that the low license “off sale” provision would result in great disorder and the “the legalized bootlegger.

Delegate Charles C. Marbury claimed that the people of Prince Georges had, in effect, had a referendum at the repeal election, that if there was further demand for one it could be authorized by the 1935 Legislature, and that a referendum at this time apparently would involve unnecessary expense.

St. Mary’s Bar Association. Philip Dorsey, lower left, helped pass the repeal of prohibition in Maryland General Assembly and was later appointed to the Circuit Court where he served until he retired in 1970. Bottom right, next to Judge Dorsey is William O. E. Sterling, who became St. Mary’s first District Court Judge. Photo courtesy of Walter B. Dorsey.

Delegate C. Damer McKendrick of Baltimore City led the fight against an excise tax by offering an amendment to strike it from the bill. Former Speaker Francis A. Michel, Delegate Metzerott and Delegate Philip Dorsey of St. Mary’s County spoke in favor of the amendment, while Majority Floor Leader James J. Lindsay Jr. and Delegate Lawrence Williams of St. Mary’s County urged its defeat, claiming the tax was as equitable as the gasoline tax and needed to meet a decline of $1,800,000 in the State’s revenue.

When it was pointed out that Gov. Ritchie had announced that unless the excise tax was authorized by the State tax rate would be boosted 6 cents, Delegate Metzerott charged that such a statement was a “bugaboo.”

“We know he wouldn’t dare throw such an additional burden on the people at this time,” he said.

Amendment Rejected

A roll call showed the McKendrick amendment rejected, 67 to 33. A few minutes later a second McKendrick amendment, proposing to reduce the excise tax from $1.10 to 50 cents, was overwhelmingly voted down, 80 to 17.

One of 79 local amendments offered from the floor and adopted just before the bill passed provided that hotels and restaurants in Prince Georges County could obtain “on-sale” liquor licenses at the prevailing State rate of $750 a year. The one country club in the county may obtain a restaurant license, the delegates said.

Another Prince Georges amendment reduced the “off sale” license fee from $200 to $150 a year. The rate set for the State is $250.

Following a caucus between Senator Lansdale G. Sasscer and the Democratic delegates of Prince Georges County it was announced that this action had been decided upon unanimously as a result of study of sentiment in the county over the weekend and the arguments presented by the county Chamber of Commerce and the Chillum, Bladensburg, and Lanham district Democratic clubs.

Encourage Package Sales

The further reduction on the “off sale” fee was ordered “with a view to encouraging package sales and to further protect the ‘off sale’ licensee,” Senator Sasscer explained.

Prince Georges amendments to the “closing hours” section of the State bill permit liquor to be dispensed from 6 am to 2 am daily, except Sunday, and beer and light wines to be sold at any time.


Attorney General William Preston Lane shared the speaker’s rostrum and kept a close watch on all amendments offered from the floor of the House. The leaders, who had helped “lineup” the delegates behind the bill, stood near the rostrum as the final roll call was called.


Although amended 300 times, chiefly defining the application of the various licenses to cities and counties, the bill as passed was substantially the same as introduced on the opening day of the session by Senator Walter J. Mitchell of Charles County, president of the Senate.

Garret County Exempt

One important amendment permits individuals to bring one quart of liquor into the State at a time, and not more than two quarts in any calendar month.

Garrett was the only county to exempt itself entirely from the bill. It voted against repeal.

So fearful were some legislators that the State bill might not pass that yesterday morning the Baltimore and Allegany County delegations introduced copies of the bill containing amendments applying to them.

Even the administration was apparently apprehensive that it might not be able to pass it as an emergency measure and an amendment was prepared eliminating the emergency clause so it could be passed with a bare majority.

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