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Two things that happened a long time ago affect where you can go today to grab a Bud Light and mozzarella sticks (and maybe something nice for the kids on the way home)—and that impacts where corporations will locate. Those historical game changers:Prohibition in 1920 and the decision of planners to favor industrial zoning over retail in the late '90s.
Jim Caronna, Bill Miller, and Tom Maddux, December 2011
KLNB retail principal Tom Maddux (right, with colleagues Jim Caronna and Bill Miller) tells us the common denominator is taxes. The Volstead Act put an end to (legal) drinking in 1920, and that meant America's favorite sin was no longer bringing in tax revenue. And the decision to favor industrial zoning made sense 10 years ago: Manufacturing was where the jobs were, blocks of land were being preserved for corporate campuses, and retail wasn't yet considered an economic development driver. Well, now those industrial areas that are no longer in use are suffering from no property and retail tax revenue to reinvest in the community. (And the ghost of Al Capone haunting all their factories with boring Prohibition stories.)
Reznick Intext BALT
T.G.I. Friday's menu
When Prohibition ended in '33, legal businesses trickled back in, but the rules of engagement differed state to state, Tom says. In Maryland, licenses went to bars and package stores but not to chains. Even now, county rules differ. Some Maryland counties allow alcohol sales in grocery and convenience stores; others don't. There was Howard County's rejection of Total Wine's app for a liquor license in the late '90s—on the grounds that a megastore was larger than needed. Until a few years ago, Anne Arundel County limited each company to one liquor license, a deterrent to lunch break and happy hour specialists like T.G.I. Friday's—it even says so on the menu. And a cap on Baltimore County liquor licenses means they're now trading for $250k, he says.
Legg Mason Tower, 100 International Drive, Baltimore, Harbor East
Tom's point is that no corporations want to locate in an area where their employees can't eat, drink, or shop. Industrial once dominated the economic development strategy, but now it's live/work/play. The areas that could be drawing more Class-A office development if only it were easier to sell liquor, Tom says, are Towson, BWI, and—
oh yeah, all those industrial zones being rezoned and reinvented. (Perhaps you remember Harbor East before restaurants, hotels, and Legg Mason's global HQ?) Attitudes, zoning, and licensing have been evolving though, he says, as folks realize that a 50-acre development with a Wal-Mart or a Wegmans can do a lot for taxes, amenities, and job creation.