Friday, September 27, 2013

Councilmember Comments - A More Vibrant Nightlife for Our County

Councilmember Hans Riemer:

As many neighborhoods evolve in Montgomery County, it has become a priority to find ways that we can build a stronger nightlife in the areas of the County that are setup to take advantage of new opportunities. I recently posted a survey to see what residents thought of this issue, and I thought it might generate substantial interest. But I was blown away by the responses: more than 2,000 residents have completed the poll!

So here are some preliminary results. While specific opinions varied, one clear theme emerged: Montgomery County residents want a more vibrant nightlife here at home.

We can do that, and we can do it responsibly.

You can see a comprehensive report on the survey results at: http://www.councilmemberriemer.org/2013/08/moco-night-life-survey-results.html

The following are some top-line findings from the results we have already gathered:

• It's not just young people who want better night-life options. Older residents, including retirees, do as well. Better dining and entertainment appeals to every generation.

• Most people say that our nightlife options are “okay” or “not that great” today.

• For young adults, a key factor in deciding where they are going to go out is accessibility to public transportation. Most of them go to the D.C.

• Another key factor for many people is whether establishments offer wide selections of beer and wine—for example craft beers or small batch spirits. Our County regulations make providing those options extremely difficult for our restaurants.

• Fewer than 10 percent of respondents say that it is a good thing that grocery stores do not sell beer and wine.

The Bottom Line: We have the ability to foster a vibrant night life here in Montgomery County, but in order to do that, we need to make some changes. The Montgomery County Night Time Economy Task Force, which I helped launch, is considering a range of recommendations, and your input is needed. Here are some of the ideas that have come up for me:

• Abolish outdated rules that create barriers to great restaurants and entertainment venues, such as liquor-food ratios.

• Significantly expand public transportation, such as the proposal before the County Council now to expand transit on our major arterials, to make our urban centers accessible at night.

• Reform the County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) so that it provides real accountability to the restaurants and entertainment venues that it serves by giving them a voice in policies and procedures.

• Change DLC rules so that restaurants that want to stock craft beers and other small batch liquor will be able to do that just as easily as they can in any other jurisdiction.

• Designate dining and entertainment districts with increased funding for walkability infrastructure, such as sidewalks and lighting

I have received a wealth of insightful comments from residents on this issue. What I have learned first of all is that everyone wants something different from our social centers. My response is that quality urban areas can provide the diverse offerings that give everyone what they are looking for.

What do you think about these ideas? Let us know by taking my survey and making sure to fill out the comment box. You can find the survey at:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1QXhv4pV7G5chkxzLLso0BkWCqveuyNw2LbII_0q0YxY/viewform
With your help, we will make Montgomery County nightlife more attractive, fun, and safe. This initiative has the potential to improve the social opportunities for current residents, attract young professionals, and ultimately, strengthen our economy. It is just that: A win, win, win. Let’s get started.