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Takoma Park edges toward wetness

By Steve Hendrix

The Takoma Park town council voted Monday night to eliminate most, but not all, of the Maryland suburb’s century-old ban on carry-out alcohol sales. If the change is approved by the state legislature, local restaurants would be able for the first time to apply for a license to sell beer and wine for customers to take away.

But the council, citing concerns over public drinking and loitering, stopped short of allowing other retailers in on the relaxed rules, notably convenience stores in the historic downtown business quarter that may have wanted to add beer coolers or wine to their stock. The popular Takoma Park-Silver Co-Op, which had expressed interest in selling organic beer and wine, will not be eligible to do so. Hard liquor sales, which in Montgomery County are restricted to county-owned package stores, are not affected by the proposed change.

See our take on how the council’s decision removes one of the last vestiges of the longtime influence of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the town of 20,000 along the District’s northeast border. The alcohol-shunning church located its headquarters in Takoma Park in 1903 in part because town founders had established it as dry. The church's presence helped maintain Takoma as one of the few dry pockets of the county for decades. But the church’s influence on Takoma Park has waned since it moved its world headquarters to Silver Spring and many Adventists settled in more outlying neighborhoods.

The town voted to allow restaurants to serve alcohol in 1983 and heard only limited opposition to the latest move toward wetness at three public hearings this year.

The new alcohol laws will be administered by the county, but the town council is seeking veto power over each license application as a way of maintaining some local control. Political observers said the state legislature typically approves any locality’s request for a change in alcohol regulations, but the request for a local veto could prove more controversial.

By Steve Hendrix  | September 28, 2010; 10:02 AM ET
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