You Want That To Go?

Dear Readers,
Maybe they should serve free booze.Yet again, not many people showed up to spout their opinions to the council on the subject of allowing beer and wine stores in Takoma Park. Four who attended the Sept. 13 meeting addressed the council and one sent a letter in. Three of those spoke against it, one spoke for it, and the last was noncommittal.
Former councilmember Paul d’Eustachio made a repeat appearance. “What’s the point?” he said, noting that the city would glean no more taxes from a wine and beer store than any other kind of business. The area around the city was well served by such stores, he said “it’s harder to find crabs than beer.”

He was fatalistic about the final vote, but he warned the council that it was critical to retain the city’s veto power over any county decisions to grant licenses.
Another resident spoke against the public temptation of a beer and wine store, citing his own experience as an alcoholic. Councilmember Fred Schultz noted he had received a constituent letter opposing a beer and wine store.
One of the owners of Roscoe’s, a popular new Old Town restaurant, voiced strong support for allowing beer and wine off-sales (sales that allow the liquor to be carried off the premises). Roscoe’s would like to offer “to-go” beer and wine, he said. Not having a beer and wine store puts the city’s business district at a “competitive disadvantage” he said. He urged the city not to ban sales of individual bottles of beer, because gourmet, craft-brewed beers are often sold in large, individual bottles.
A representative from the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Co-op carefully made clear that the co-op took no position on whether to allow off-sales or not. However, if the measure passed, they would look into selling organic beers and wines, he said.
Your Gilbert has an opinion, but we’ve stated it before. You can read it in the footnotes if you wish, Dear Readers.
Excrement and Filth
You know how when you bring a sweater to get the elbows patched, and they tug on a loose thread and the whole thing comes apart, so they put it back together but they find a lot of the yarn has gone bad so they toss that out, and with the yarn that’s left they make a hat?
Has that every happened to you? Well, it happened to the city council. They handed over the section of the city code quaintly titled “Morals and Conduct” and asked the staff for revisions pertaining to the new auditorium. When the council returned from vacation, the staff handed them a renamed section, “Public Space and Public Buildings,” that was one paragraph long. They also handed them 9 pages of crossed out code ordinances from the old section.
Gone are (or will be if the council passes this) articles such as “Offenses Against Public Health” which disallows the “deposit” of “excrement or filth from vault or privies, necessary house, or water closets. . . . ”
What happened was that when they looked into it, the staff found that the entire section of code was “obsolete, covered by other laws, and unenforced and/or unenforceable.”
So, they propose tossing it all out and replacing it with a simple ordinance that allows the city manager to write regulations governing auditorium management.
The point of all this is to not regulate the small stuff with city code. To make, change, or remove city code regulations, the city council has to craft resolutions, hold hearings, discuss in work session, and have two readings of the ordinance. This can become a real pain in the dais, as the council discovered when it wanted to change parking meter times and amounts, but discovered that those details were cemented into city code.
It was a case of TMI (Too Much Information) being put into law. Instead, they reasoned, administrative regulations would allow more flexibility.
Flexibility is key as the city begins to rent out the new auditorium. The need for quick and easy adjustments to the governing regulations are anticipated.
The new “Public Space and Public Buildings.” ordinance would affect not only the auditorium, but all the city’s public facilities, indoors and out.
The council, overwhelmed by the proposed changes that exceeded what they were expecting, grumped a bit then put it all on hold until they could study the proposal more and take a restorative nap or two.
Fat Chance
Maryland pip-squeaks, er, . . . we mean municipalities, are coordinating a futile, doomed effort to make King Kong . . . we mean the state, restore slashed tax revenues and never slash them again! The council passed a resolution that petitions the Maryland administration and legislation to “reinstate state shared revenues to Maryland municipalities.”
The Maryland Municipal League, the organization of the few incorporated cities and towns in the state, plotted to have all its members pass such resolutions and shove them in the faces of our elected state official. More like wave them at their ankles while making little squeaky noises.
The state municipalities, being so few, do not carry much clout, even when acting collectively. So, your Gilbert doesn’t have much hope for this. However, if each municipality hounds it’s state delegation there might at least be a little dust raised.
At Long Last
The annual review of the city’s strategic plan, delayed for a week, was worth the wait and anticipation. Not.
At least it didn’t take very long, and didn’t involve much more than a few small updates. We could have gone to bed early. We will now.

– Gilbert
Gilbert’s considered opinion on allowing beer and wine stores:
1). It is to no particular advantage to the city. The county gets the liquor taxes.
2). There are several liquor stores within short distance of the city borders.
3). The county, not the city, would be in charge of granting licenses.
4). The city should not enable the county Department of Liquor Control. An off-sales store would HAVE to buy all it’s stock from the county, subject to what the county chooses to offer. This is why most of the area liquor stores are in DC and Prince George’s County.
5). Having no liquor store is part of the city’s quirky nature and history. Keeping it that way shows respect to the city’s tee totaling founders and to the Seventh Day Adventists who kept the city dry until recently. Lets not be carpetbaggers.
We were reminded recently of the 1980s campaign to allow beer and wine sales in city restaurants. There were petitions going around, imprinted beer mugs to raise funds, a float in the 4th of July parade. It was a grassroots movement – mostly made up of newcomers, we have to admit. But, hundreds of people were behind it.
We don’t see any of that grassroots effort for this latest campaign. The push seems to be coming from the Old Town Business Association, merchants, and from a few score constituent emails, most apparently from Ward 1 and other affluent areas.
Even though there wasn’t a groundswell movement for it, the council got the process rolling. Despite the low public hearing turnouts, and despite the prospect that this will become a royal pain in the neck dealing with county and state liquor laws and agencies, the process continues.
How did this ball get rolling, what keeps it going, and how do we make it stop?


About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

1 Comment on "You Want That To Go?"

  1. Is there an existing category of license that permits off sale only by businesses that otherwise operate as restaurants or food stores (not snacks)? If not, has anyone considered seeking a legislative fix? That would allow Roscoe and the like and the Co-op to sell off premise, if they wish.
    P.S. “[T]his will become a royal pain in the neck dealing with county and state liquor laws and agencies” Sounds like you’re ready of the Tea (totaler)Party, Gilbert.

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