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After midnight let it all hang down

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Published on: Thursday, August 15, 2013

By Brian J. Karem

I am in no mood to preach. The air is cool, almost autumn-like, it’s sunny and football season has begun.

Those long two-a-day practices for high school players and those even longer days for college and professional players are leading to the inevitable showdowns on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays which make this time of year a joy to behold.

Meanwhile, here in Montgomery County the county council is attempting to grow the area’s night time economy. Councilman Hans Rimer, County Executive Ike Leggett and Councilman Marc Elrich are the Night Time Economy Task Force.

I wonder if they got t-shirts.

The county has a lot of high end venues like the Fillmore and Strathmore, but it’s hard to make a good pub crawl in the county.

Part of the problem, as Riemer has noted, is pub owners must also operate a restaurant with their pub. There are no real bars in Montgomery County. There are restaurants with bars that also have entertainment.

The true neighborhood pub doesn’t exist.

The true nightclub is non-existent.

But there are greater problems facing pub owners in Montgomery County. Many of these small businesses pay far too much in taxes. With profit margins sometimes lower than the sales tax rate, many of these small pubs are little more than private tax collectors for a variety of taxing entities.

There remains a great deal of musical and comedic talent in Montgomery County upon which a healthy nightlife can thrive.

A few nights in the local restaurants will show this to be the case, but at the end of the day it is less about what people want in Montgomery County and more about what the government can do about getting out of the way.

Regulations and taxes are huge roadblocks to overcome.

But as daunting a task as it is to deal with those issues, there remains one other issue problematic for the county’s night time economy to take off and fly: The police.

It is very intimidating to enjoy the nightlife in the county only to see police hovering outside your favorite watering hole at closing time.

This isn’t to say police shouldn’t be around. The problems of drinking and driving are quite serious and have been the cause of many a local tragedy.

But it is also quite unnerving to see the police engage in what appears to many to be bullying tactics by sitting just outside your local pub at closing time.

This goes a long way to persuade people not to go out at night. Even if you’ve done the right thing, and you’re not inebriated, who needs the tension associated with being pulled over after midnight when you’re heading home from enjoying your favorite nightlife venue.

On the other hand, there is no way the police shouldn’t be out patrolling the streets at the witching hour – because let’s face it the crazies come out after midnight.

Perhaps a bit of subtlety would be in order. Encourage the police to be nearby, but not parked directly across the street from your favorite venue at closing time.

It’s like coming home and seeing your dad standing in the front yard.

You may not have done anything wrong, but its unnerving to see the old man there with a scowl on his face.

Otherwise, it would be nice to see the local government provide tax incentives to local businesses engaged in the nighttime economy.

True encouragement of nightlife involves a great deal of effort, but the bottom line is to provide economic assistance.

Taxes are overwhelming, the police drive away business, and regulations can be confusing and cumbersome. For the local pub owner, assistance with those three problems will go a long way to curing the ills of Montgomery County’s tepid nightlife.

I for one look forward to it. I enjoy a good laugh, a great band and the ability to drive home smiling and not frowning.

Hope the county gets this one right. I’ll happily hoist a few if they do . . .and offer a sermon if they don’t.

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