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Smith steps down as Charles Liquor Board chair

charles county liquor board

La Plata, MD - Pamela Smith stepped down as chair of the Liquor Board Thursday, Aug. 10 in La Plata, marking the end of nine years on the Charles County Board of License Commissioners.

Smith, a fourth-generation Charles Countian, spent 17 years in the service industry. In the past she has served on the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, the Charles County United Way and the Zonta Club of Charles County.

“It’s not a tough job,” she said. “It gets a little intense sometimes. It was a passion for me.”

She asserts that Charles County has always had a good board.

“I feel like I’ve never served with anyone on the board who wasn’t a team player,” Smith said. “I learned a lot from my predecessors. I had such a respect for the process early on.”

The maxim for the board has always been to urge bar and restaurant owners to refuse service for those who display a vertical license—which in Maryland designates the patron as under the age of 21.

“Quite a few got it,” she said. “There are a few that can’t seem to grasp it.”

Smith said one of her first jobs was working for now-county commissioner Bobby Rucci.

“He lined us all up and told us, ‘This is no joke,’ ” she recalled. “He told us, ‘There is no A or B or anything else. There is no in-between.’ That stuck with me.”

She said probably the biggest challenges those in the service industry face is the high turnover rate of employees. A lot of workers are from the younger generation and they don’t seem to get it.

“It’s not a life or death situation for them,” she pointed out.

Another wrench thrown into the works is a new policy by the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles (MVA) that now allows drivers under 21 to apply for their horizontal license one month before their 21st birthday.

“I think it’s going to cause some problems,” she added. “We voiced our opinion when they proposed it, but they told us, ‘It’s a process thing.’ I know when I turned 21 I was standing outside of the MVA, and I wanted that place to open. It’s a rite of passage. They don’t need to get it early.”

Another challenge has been the number of young drivers who don’t get their vertical license replaced once they have reached the age when they can begin to legally consume alcohol. That has caused some local restaurant owners problems. Some have refused service and told the customer, ‘Go get your license changed,’ refusing to take the chance.

As far as excuses as to why a business violated the county’s liquor laws, Smith said she has heard them all.

“Everyone has a story,” she explained. “Some of them are very heartfelt. You can sympathize, but you still have to enforce the rules and regulations. The ones I like are the ones who said they were busy. I’m sorry, but you’re never too busy to do your job. That you were busy is not an excuse. There is no excuse.”

Smith said she expects board member Thomasina Coates to serve as the next chairperson. Kathleen Quade has been selected by the county commissioners to replace her District 2 seat on the board.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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