ROCKVILLE – A month after County Executive Ike Leggett appointed Robert Dorfman as head of the County Department of Liquor Control, the County Council finally had their opportunity to interview him.
Dorfman, a former executive at hotel giant Marriott International, was selected to head the DLC in December because of his background in the private sector in hopes he could improve the department.
During the interview on Jan. 26 just before the council session, members of the council sat along a conference table, each offering their praise of Dorfman’s resume.
“I and my staff are so impressed with what you bring to this job,” said Council member George Leventhal (D-at large), citing Dorfman’s experience in the private sector.
In addition to Marriott, Dorfman was president and CEO of TrustHouse Services Group, a contract services company; president of Host International, a global restaurant company; and one of the largest franchisees of Five Guys, operating 35 locations in Florida, Texas and Ohio.
If approved by the Council, Dorfman will head the DLC, the department that controls the County’s monopoly on liquor. Unlike most jurisdictions in the United States, the DLC is the only distributor of alcohol in the County. In addition, the DLC owns and operates all liquor stores in the County, not including privately owned beer and wine stores.
The DLC has long been a controversial organization. Many restaurants and bars that depend on alcohol sales often criticize the DLC’s monopoly over liquor and often short supply of non-name-brand liquors.
“It has always had a small order issue, at least I am guessing and you could probably tell me yes or no, in the private sector this is the stuff that happens, but they have no one to complain to,” said Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large). “But in the public sector, they have people to complain to, and so complain they do.”
Dorfman said if he becomes director of the DLC, he does not plan to change the County’s model by seeding distribution of liquor to the private sector.
“There’s a public belief that Montgomery County is a monopoly in terms of its control of its alcoholic beverages: that there’s something lost by having this monopoly,” Dorfman said. “ The real fact of the matter is if this business were actually privatized and sold – that monopoly continues – it just transfers to someone else, it just transfers to another entity.”
Dorfman’s promise to keep much of the DLC’s status quo pleased members of the council who said the department’s approximately $35 million in profits was important for the County.
While there have been calls from members of the General Assembly and criticism of the DLC by Gov. Larry Hogan, the County has made an effort to keep the County monopoly on liquor.
Dorfman said he plans to improve the department’s customer service and to launch a public relations campaign to show residents the benefits of having County control of liquor.
“We need to have a proactive public relations campaign that talks about the benefits the County is providing and to be perfectly honest about those issues that still remain and where it is where we are going with those challenges,” Dorfman said.