Most of Garrett keeps Sunday alcohol ban 2 of 19 districts OK liquor in restaurants

Election 1996

November 07, 1996|By Cindy Stacy | Cindy Stacy,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

AVILTON -- No matter what the weather forecast, Garrett County is staying mostly dry on Sundays.

Voters in this rural Western Maryland county, except for those in two small voting districts, have rejected a referendum to allow restaurant diners to order alcoholic drinks on Sundays.

That has left the measure's biggest supporters, the owners of businesses around Deep Creek Lake, high and dry. They had urged the measure's passage to boost the county's flourishing tourist trade.

"It's really tough when you have a three-day weekend and people are stranded up here and realize there's no alcohol served on Sundays," said Martin Heise, food and beverage director at the Wisp ski resort. "We can live with it, and it certainly doesn't ruin our business by any means."

Garrett County is the only Maryland county barring Sunday liquor sales.

The referendum's passage in the two northeastern districts -- in Avilton by 40 votes and a sparsely populated area known as the Elbow by two votes-- will affect only one establishment, the Avilton restaurant. Beginning Dec. 15, the restaurant will be able to sell drinks to patrons who also order food.

Emmett Williams, the Avilton's owner, said he was pleased with the results and was unconcerned about the impact on Deep Creek Lake businesses.

"We don't have a bar or anything, and the way the law was written was perfect for us," he said. "Liquor is a complement to our dinners, and that's all the referendum was supposed to do. Had it not passed, I'd still be here. I'm not in the liquor business, but now when a customer asks for glass of Chablis here, he'll be able to get it on Sunday."

Countywide, voters soundly rejected the referendum, 62 percent to 38 percent.

The Rev. Michael Mudge, who led the fight against the ballot question in this deeply religious and politically conservative county of 29,000, said he was pleased with the results. He noted that county voters rejected the proposal by a larger margin than when it last appeared on the ballot four years ago.

"It's not like this is an unfamiliar issue," he said. "I'm ecstatic that so many districts were overwhelmingly opposed to it this time."

Still, the approval in two of 19 districts breaks the total ban on Sunday sales. With that in mind, supporters had pushed to allow each voting district to decide the issue independently.

A third district might join the two that approved the referendum. In Finzel, next to Avilton, the measure lost by eight votes, but 27 absentee ballots are to be counted today.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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