Bringing back Drinks in the Parks: Montgomery Co. looks at the law

Good news for those hoping to see Montgomery County, Maryland, bring back the program that allowed parks users to have a beer or a glass of wine while enjoying a meal.

Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, had been asked by state and county lawmakers to reinstate the program. He responded in a tweet that he agreed it should make a comeback.

Anderson’s response read in part, “We always expected this program would become permanent and just need a pause to sort out the post-COVID legalities of the situation. We appreciate the support from our elected leaders!”

Del. Marc Korman and Montgomery County Council member Evan Glass had written to Anderson, who is also vice chair of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, telling him that they believed there was no need for a change in state law to allow the policy of allowing alcoholic beverages in the parks to continue.

“After consultation with the Council attorney and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, we believe it is clear that Park and Planning can work with the Board of License Commissioners to structure a program to continue the alcohol delivery component of Picnic in the Park,” the letter stated.

The “Picnic in the Park” program was designed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage food and beverage delivery to local parks. The idea was that people could have meals outdoors safely while giving area restaurants more business.

In an interview with WTOP, Anderson said he agreed with Glass and Korman that the chances are good the policy can be made permanent within existing law. “We hope to do it as quickly as possible as soon as we’re confident we have a path that works under the law.”

Anderson said the public embraced the program and noted that there were zero complaints to Park Police.

“The fact that we’ve had not a single call for service to Park Police related to any kind of inappropriate activity from alcohol in the parks as part of this program is, I think, pretty strong evidence that this is something that can be managed and that people appreciate,” Anderson said.

Glass said that small businesses and restaurants have seen a boost in business as a result of the program.

“It’s a modern approach to enjoying the great outdoors. Especially during the pandemic, when people want to get outside, breathe fresh air, get some mental health and enjoy the company of their friends,” Glass said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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