The votes had hardly been counted when Eric Rudden started applying for a license to sell beer in his Clarksburg convenience store. A few miles north, Jayeun Won said she was going to see her lawyer about getting a license for her store, too.
Clarksburg and Darnestown residents voted Tuesday to allow the sale of alcohol in their rural Montgomery County communities, for the first time since Prohibition. But in Damascus -- described by people on both sides of the issue as a town of churchgoers -- residents voted to keep the town dry, as it has been for 100 years. The three districts, which form a swath through the northwestern part of the county, were among the last major holdouts against liquor sales in Montgomery.
"It takes time," said Harry Burdette, who led the effort to pass the referendum in the Damascus district, acknowledging all along that residents would probably vote to stay dry. "This is a right strong, church-oriented community."
While opposition in Damascus to the alcohol sales was organized -- letters were mailed to residents and literature distributed at the polls -- there was little visible opposition in Clarksburg and Darnestown.
Damascus also has far fewer new residents than the other two communities, and the old ways of Damascus' Methodist farmers are believed to hold strong sway. Roscoe Buxton, a nondrinking Methodist who led the opposition to alcohol sales in the districts, said he was pleased with the 2,758-to-1,823 vote in his home town of Damascus. But in Darnestown and Clarksburg, he said, he "didn't get much response" when seeking support and campaign workers to fight the referendum.
"Maybe it's just not an issue with people as it once was," said Rev. Eleanor W. Jones, who preaches at the United Methodist Church in Clarksburg, a district that voted 2,054 to 1,439 in favor of alcohol sales.
"There are other things that are more important to them," she said. " . . . It was not an issue that was adressed within my church, one way or the other. I don't know of anyone in my congregation that was greatly concerned."
With alcohol sales allowed in most of the rest of the county, "people who really want alcohol can get it anyway," she said.
In Germantown, one of the fastest-growing areas in the county and a part of the Clarksburg election district, many of the new residents "didn't even realize they were going to be confronted with the issue on the ballot," said Linda Bell, president of the Germantown Civic Association. They "probably thought they were in a wet area already," she added.
Barbara Knapp, a Democratic Party precinct chairwoman in Clarksburg, said she believed that many of the older residents may have voted against alcohol sales, but were outnumbered by newcomers who were in favor of it. She described the ban on alcohol as "an anomaly at this stage of the game: You are such a little island."
Besides Damascus, the rural area around Laytonsville and the small municipalities of Washington Grove and Kensington are the only dry jurisdictions in the county.
Burdette maintains that residents of dry areas drink just as much as people elsewhere. Rudden, who runs the convenience store in Clarksburg, agrees.
"We probably have about five people a day coming here looking for beer," he said, "and I have to send them five miles north or five miles south on Frederick Road . . . . If they need it, they are going to get it."
Jayeun Won said people frequently ask to buy beer in her store, but she also has to send them away. "Lots of people come in, and I don't think they're bad people," she said. "They're just regular customers. They'd like to be able to buy beer."