Montgomery County's Board of License Commissioners yesterday approved a Takoma Park restaurant's application to sell beer and wine, the first time that the sale of alcoholic beverages will be permitted in the Montgomery County part of the city. In the one-third of the city that lies in Prince George's County, liquor stores are permitted.
The board unanimously approved a liquor license for the Takoma Cafe, a restaurant scheduled to open next month at 1 Columbia Ave. It is leased by the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op, which operates a natural-food store on Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring.
Backers of the license application, who included the majority of the City Council, city residents and owners of businesses in the city's Old Town section, said the sale of alcoholic beverages would be a major step in the city's revitalization efforts. Takoma Park's old commercial strip along Carroll Avenue needs a high-quality restaurant to help draw shoppers, they said.
The license was granted over the protests of some neighbors of the cafe, who said that any additional automobile traffic could endanger schoolchildren and senior citizens in the largely residential area.
License Board Chairman A.P. Cassidy said after the hearing, however, that the board did not think the cafe would generate much additional traffic.
"It's a very small restaurant," Cassidy said. The seating capacity of the cafe, a converted two-story Victorian house, is 37.
"I have no problem with the intentions of the co-op to revitalize the city's business district with this request. But the fact is that the cafe is located in a residential section of the city, not in the business district," said James Holland, who lives a few blocks from the cafe on Pine Avenue. Cassidy noted after the hearing, however, that the restaurant is located on the fringe of the official business district.
Marc Elrich, a member of the food co-op, said the cafe would not serve more than two glasses of beer or wine to customers who did not buy food. "This is an attempt to enhance our establishment," he said. "We don't want to become a place where people can go just to have a few drinks."
Sales of alcoholic beverages in the Montgomery County part of the city have been banned during the city's 100-year-old history largely because of the dominance in that sector of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The church has its international and local headquarters in Takoma Park, and prohibition of alcoholic beverages near church property has inhibited restaurant development.
But at the last city election, voters in the Montgomery part of the city approved the sale of alcoholic beverages. The referendum passed then applies only to hotels and restaurants; liquor stores, carry-outs and bars still are prohibited in the Montgomery part of the city. In the Prince George's portion, there are currently two liquor stores but no other outlets.