Kensington seeks input on beer, wine sales
Town moving further from dryer days
When Kensington residents vote in the June 7 town council election, they also will be polled about their views on expanding beer and wine sales in town, a referendum some say could bring new life to small business.
"Absolutely it would help us," said Susie Cooper, co-owner of Old Town Market on Kensington Parkway. "The neighborhood would be able to support us more, and we'd be able to serve the community in a way bigger stores can't."
Prior to 2007, alcohol sales of any kind were prohibited within town limits. That year, state lawmakers at the behest of the Kensington Town Council passed legislation allowing the Montgomery County Board of License Commissioners to issue alcoholic beverage licenses to restaurants in the business district.
In 2009, the area where alcohol sales are permitted was expanded to portions of Connecticut Avenue, Howard Avenue, University Boulevard, Dupont Avenue, and several other streets that featured eateries near Town Center.
The town council is considering legislation that would permit off-site alcohol sales in those areas; a measure that would provide for beer and wine stores in Kensington.
"I've heard some pretty strong feelings on both sides of the issue," Councilman Sean McMullen said. "I think most people would like to see it go through if we put some limitations in place."
McMullen said similar to current on-site alcohol sales, which are allowed in certain areas and in restaurants where at least half of their income is generated by food sales, the proposition will include several caveats prohibiting the hours of sales and if it can be refrigerated.
Cooper said she has been lobbying Town Hall for off-site beer and wine sales since she opened the Old Town Market three years ago. She says such sales would boost profits for stores.
"When you're off the beaten path like we are, you have to do have something that brings people in," she said. "That's why we have soft serve ice cream and deli sandwiches; it's a way to compete."
Resident Meredith Fulton said she does not support the move, as Kensington already is served by liquor stores.
"I don't consider this to be a priority right now," she said. "There are a lot of other things we could spend our time on when there's already a place to buy it around here."
Barnesville, Damascus, Laytonsville, Washington Grove and the City of Takoma Park also are noted in Maryland State Law, prohibiting or further limiting alcohol sales within their limits. All sales of alcoholic beverages require a license, issued by Montgomery County's Board of License Commissioners.
The referendum is expected to be attached to ballots during the June 7 election, scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. at Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell St., Kensington. Following a tallying of referendum opinions, town officials said any legislation would have to pass public hearing before proposed to a state representative who can sponsor a bill. The bill would then need approval by the Maryland General Assembly before becoming law.
Referendum question: Should the Town support State legislation that would allow a prospective license holder, only in the geographic area shown below, to apply for a license to sell beer and wine for consumption off-site only, subject to certain conditions, for example; limiting the hours of sale and/or requiring that beer and wine not be refrigerated, with final conditions to be determined by the Council after a Public Hearing and vote before the State legislation is requested.
Voting is 6 to 9 p.m. June 7 at Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell St., Kensington.