The referendum on the November ballot to repeal the ban on the sale of beer and wine in Damascus is not about alcohol consumption. Rather it is about attracting upscale restaurants to Damascus. Because the profit margins on the sale of alcohol are much greater than those on food, most quality restaurants cannot survive financially on the sale of food alone. As a case in point, a number of restaurateurs have expressed interest in locating in the new Damascus Center — until they learn Damascus is a dry community at which point their interest wanes. Three restaurant owners from the Frederick area have expressed a desire to open restaurants in Damascus if the ban on the sale of beer and wine is lifted. The availability of a few small upscale restaurants will in turn attract other businesses enhancing the overall economic vitality of our community.
Maryland House Bill 690, which will govern the sale of alcohol in Damascus if the current ban is repealed, was carefully crafted by our legislators to make the repeal acceptable to as broad a segment of the community as possible. It imposes very significant restrictions on the sale of alcohol in Damascus that are intended to keep alcohol out of the hands of our teens while still attracting small upscale restaurants. Specifically:
ź Only beer and wine may be sold in Damascus — no “hard” liquor — and only in restaurants to seated patrons having a meal.
ź Take out sales, bars, package stores or sale of alcohol in grocery or convenience stores will not be permitted.
ź The sale of alcohol will be prohibited in any establishment providing recreational activities that could attract young people such as video games or pool.
These restrictions can be relaxed only through another referendum; i.e., only if the people of Damascus vote sometime in the future to do so which is highly unlikely to happen.
We will not see any national restaurant chains such as Chili’s come to Damascus as a result of the repeal of the current ban. Those establishments depend on full service bars for much of their profits and the population of the Damascus area is insufficient to attract them. What we will see are a few small privately owned upscale restaurants come to our town.
Some in the community say that repealing the ban on the sale of beer and wine will change the character of the town. That is true — for the better. Empty storefronts will be replaced by thriving businesses. Others say that the “dry” nature of Damascus makes it a better place to raise a family, that it restricts the availability of alcohol to our teenagers. Experience suggests alcohol is as readily available today to our teens as it is elsewhere. The restrictions to be placed on the sale of beer and wine in Damascus ensure that repealing the current ban will not make alcohol any more available to them than it currently is.
Vote YES on Question C for repealing the prohibition of the sale of beer and wine in Damascus. Even if you don’t care for a glass of beer or wine with dinner, you’ll benefit from gaining access to upscale restaurants without having to drive to Germantown or Mount Airy.
Larry and Marie Dean, Damascus