Beer and wine – soon for sale in Takoma Park

Photo by Theresa Sintetos.

BY THERESA SINTETOS

It’s on the receipts, on the computer screen, and there is a big sign in the entrance, beer and wine is coming to the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op.

After spending the greater part of the last century as a dry city, carry-out beer and wine sales are being allowed in Takoma Park at standalone retailers, which includes the co-op. As soon as they get a license, that is.

The Takoma Park City Council voted on the issue in January of this year. It passed in a 5 to 1 vote. Councilmember Terry Seamens had the only dissenting vote and councilmember Tim Male was absent.

“I strongly support the co-op’s ability to sell beer and wine and had been working for a couple of years to enable it,” said councilmember Seth Grimes.

The bill went on to the Maryland General assembly, which passed it unanimously.  The law allows public hearings in front of the Montgomery County Liquor board for licenses to sell, to begin July 1. Depending on how long this process takes the TPSS Co-op anticipates sales to begin sometime at the end of the summer, according to Czech.

“We might have jumped the gun a bit,” said Greg Czech, director of marketing at the co-op, speaking about the signs. “But we were kind of instrumental in getting the law changed, and this is something our members want.”

In 2010 the city council passed a law allowing restaurants to sell beer and wine for take away, but stopped short of allowing other retailers such as convenience stores and the co-op.

“There has been a slow ramp up of, you know, more restaurants, better restaurants selling liquor, but the city council was really amenable to the change,” said Czech.

The change was partially spurred on by the results of a residents’ survey conducted last year. Nearly 46% of residents surveyed requested beer and wine sales at retailers.

“It’s a matter of convenience,” said Czech. “You come in, you are picking up dinner for the evening, and you can’t get a bottle of wine to take home.”

Many residents who now go to liquor stores in bordering jurisdictions such as Silver Spring or the District of Columbia to purchase beer and wine are excited for the change.

“I look for organic beer and wine, and I have to go to Mom’s [Organic Market] for it. So here would be perfect for me,” said Isabell Porres, Takoma Park resident.

But not all residents are happy about the change. Some are worried about how this will change the community.

“Not to sound like a puritan, but there is something about Takoma the way it is that doesn’t promote that. You don’t see as many people sort of on the streets with containers,” said Alison Freeman, a Takoma Park resident. “There is something about the small town feel . . . and some of that sense of that community cohesiveness that we have. I kind of like that.”

The co-op will take some measures to ease those worries, such as not offering any chilled options to deter the possibility of people drinking before they make it home, and careful pricing, making sure their products are quality and not too inexpensive.

The co-op, said Czech, is also taking great care in the selection of their products.

“We are going to focus on local and organic, and bio-dynamic, wherever we can, but those sorts of things are usually more expensive. So, we will also have a couple other things,” said Czech.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Theresa Sintetos is a journalism student at the University of Maryland.