Robert Dorfman, an international businessman who prides himself on turning around ailing companies, was named by County Executive Ike Leggett to be the County’s new Department of Liquor Control director.
Dorfman, a 35-year resident of North Potomac, first must be approved for the position by the County Council. That hearing is set for Jan. 24.
The Department of Liquor Control, which generates $21 million annually for the County, is responsible for licensing and wholesale and retail sales of alcohol and has tight control over what the county-owned and – operated liquor stores can sell.
If approved, Dorfman will replace acting Director Fariba Kassiri, who stepped in after George Griffin resigned in January following 21 years of service.
Consumers and some state legislators have criticized the department and have attempted to put the County out of the liquor business. But County officials don’t want to end their control and, more specifically, want to retain the income it brings to the County coffers.
Dorfman said he is going in with an open mind.
“I wasn’t given any specific direction,” he said. He has “no preconceived notions” as to the best way to successfully run the department.
“I just want to do a great job, and I think I have the ability to do so,” he said.
Dorfman, 66, has 35 Five Guys franchises, none of which are in Maryland. He has held several executive positions within Marriott International, including president of Host International, which has an annual income of $1.5 billion and 25,000 employees, according to County spokesperson Patrick Lacefield.
He also was managing partner of two World Beer franchises in Virginia.
“Bob Dorfman has been a success wherever he worked,” Leggett said in a statement. “He is just the leader we need to bring private sector experience to the Department of Liquor Control.”
Added Leggett, “This is a leader who thrives on challenges – and that is just what we need.”
Dorfman noted that the County of late has looked into “a lot of options or alternatives” for the Liquor Control Board and that he would be analyzing the department to see how best to move forward. His emphasis will be on improving customer service and infrastructure, he said.
“I’ve always been put in turnaround situations,” he said.
“I think it’s a great place to live. I think its school system is great,” he said of the county. His son is a Wootton High School graduate.
Dorfman has never held a government position, but he has been an activist for the businesses he has run and has testified on Capitol Hill, he said.
The Liquor Control Board has an annual budget of $63 million. It has 300 full-time and 160 part-time employees. It generates about $280 million in net sales, which it uses to cover its expenses and pay off $11 million in outstanding bonds, and it gives the remaining roughly $21 million to the County’s General Fund, Lacefield said.
In the coming year, the board is projected to transfer $20.7 million to the general fund.