MARYLAND

Damascus restaurant sells alcohol for the first time

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Restaurant-goers in one Montgomery County town are washing down their meals with something that's been banned there for 80 years.

Damascus voters lifted the age-old "dry spell" in Nov. This weekend, New York J&P Pizza started serving beer and wine. The restaurant is the first to be granted a liquor license in the town.

Surprisingly, sales for beer and wine were slow Saturday. The county advises against advertising that they sell liquor. But thanks to word of mouth, the news is getting out.

New York J&P Pizza Waitress Kendall Wieder said, "Anyone out-of-state, out-of-town that would come in, they'd always ask for it."

After 80 years of denying diners liquor in Damascus, history is being uncorked inside New York J&P Pizza.

"You have people that have been living here their whole lives, and to see finally our small little restaurant being the first ever in Damascus to be able to serve beer and wine, it's remarkable," Wieder said.

Linda Putnam and her parents are regular customers. But they admit up until now, they'd toast to their bog parties elsewhere.

Ethel Putnam of Damascus said, "When the whole family would get together and want to go for family dinner and wanted to have drinks, our money left Damascus...This way our money can stay here in Damascus, and that makes me happy."

Two other business, Ledo Pizza on Main Street and the Music Cafe on Rodge Road, have also applied for liquor licenses and are awaiting hearings.

Voters overturned a ban on booze back in Nov. The town had been dry since prohibition.

"It's kind of nice not to have to drive as far just to sit down and have a beer," Damascus Resident Brett Tobiassen said.

While beer and wine sales should boost business, the menu changes will take some getting used to.

"It's not in keeping with the Damascus that I've always known. I've always appreciated the fact that it's been a dry town," Linda explained. "We've been coming here for a very long time, so I'm happy for the establishment."

Weider was also born and bred in Damascus. She says serving alcohol won't taint the town's character.

"I don't expect it to be like a bar scene or anyone just coming in and getting drunk, but I definitely expect more of the family crowds to come in and have beer and pizza," she added.

The beer and wine sales are also expected to bring in new business. Residents say a lot of restaurants that once "eyed" Damascus opened doors elsewhere, were alcohol could be served.

Nov.'s vote was not the first attempt at lifting the ban on selling alcohol in restaurants. The referendums failed in 1933, 1976, 1984 and 1992.

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