Damascus no longer dry with new law

The same-sex marriage law in Maryland is one of several new laws which take effect across our region. Among them – restaurants in what was a dry town in Montgomery County – are now allowed to serve alcohol.

Change has always been slow in coming in Damascus and that’s the way people who live here like it, but a new law that goes on the books Tuesday will likely shake things up in the quiet town.

“We had two great restaurants go out of business here because they couldn’t have liquor so the business goes elsewhere,” says Misty Bittinger.

Dry Damascus is dry no more. The sale of alcohol has been illegal here since prohibition, but in a hotly-contested referendum vote, residents OK’d new legislation allowing the sale of beer and wine in Damascus restaurants.

“We’re not going to see people coming here from Germatown and Gaithersburg just because we serve alcohol, but we do see people leave the town of Damascus and patronize Germantown and Gaithersburg,” says Randy Anderson, who owns the Music Café.

His café is one of just a handful of restaurants in town. Live acts perform on the weekends and up until now his beverage menu has been dry. Now with the ability to sell alcohol he feels he can now keep up with his competition in neighboring towns.

For supporters of the new law, it’s about keeping Damascus dollars in Damascus.

“I hope it will boost the economy here and bring in more restaurants because you don’t have a lot of choices here,” says Christine Johnson.

One quick in the new law: alcohol can only be served to patrons who are seated at tables. Nevertheless, most residents, even those like Jerry Mader, a longtime opponent of alcohol sales in Damascus, think the new law will be good for the town.

“Times have changed,” he says. “When we moved up here there wasn’t nearly as many people, so yeah. I voted for it.”