With Kensington's recent vote to permit alcohol sales within its borders, the Damascus election district is the only "dry area" remaining in Montgomery County.
Damascus residents have rejected referendums to permit alcohol sales in the town four times in the last 20 years, most recently in 1996.
"My own feeling is we don't need to be selling alcohol within this little town or to have bars open," said Rev. Walt Edmonds of Damascus United Methodist Church. "My feeling is this is a church- and religious- oriented community -- there's still that sense of specialness in it not being so available."
The last referendum would have limited alcohol sales to beer and wine in sit-down restaurants only, with no carry-out permitted.
"There's a concern here that if it gets there, it's going to be everywhere else," Edmonds said. "I think some people might be open to a glass of wine with dinner, but by and large, people don't want bars to open up here ..."
Jim Mahoney of Damascus is torn about the issue.
"I don't know if I'd vote for it or against it," he said.
As a resident of the community, Mahoney has always opposed the sale of alcohol in Damascus, but as the part-owner of four Ledo Pizza restaurants, including the one in Damascus, he knows people like a glass of beer or wine with their meal.
"I think alcohol sales would be advantageous to us in the restaurant," Mahoney said. "[But} for certain reasons, I don't want to see alcohol come to Damascus. Damascus is unique because of that."
The Damascus 12th Election District has been "dry" since its formation in 1884, when voters rejected an opportunity for alcohol sales. Voters also rejected alcohol referendums in 1933, 1976, 1984, 1992 and 1996.
Randy Scritchfield, chairman of the Damascus Community Alliance, led the effort to get the alcohol referendum on the ballot four years ago.
"The opponents were successful in demagoguing the issue," Scritchfield said.
With 7,057 of the 9,338 registered voters in District 12 voting, the referendum failed, 3,861-3,196.
Before the issue can appear on the ballot again, by law, both houses of the state legislature have to pass a bill and the governor has to sign it. Sens. Jean Roesser (R-Dist. 15) of Potomac and P.J. Hogan (R-Dist. 39) of Gaithersburg sponsored the bill in 1996.
"I think we're going to have to demonstrate to elected officials it will pass before it gets on the ballot," Scritchfield said.
The Damascus Chamber of Commerce and business community supported the referendum in 1996, but families mounted a successful effort to defeat it, Roesser said.
"The authorization passed the General Assembly quite readily," she said.
She will only sponsor another bill, "if I felt sufficiently confident the people wanted it ... I haven't heard a word from anybody."
Since Roesser and Hogan face reelection in 2002, Scritchfield expects that the earliest they will again bring the issue to the legislature is 2004.
"I'd like to see more of a consensus in the community at large," Roesser said. "It's not a lot of fun introducing something that goes down ultimately."