Kathie Durbin is the chief of Licensure, Regulation & Education for the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control. She also tended bar for 12 years at Bethesda’s Durty Nelly’s, the popular bar on Montgomery Lane that preceded Tommy Joe’s.
Durbin (who is also chair of the Responsible Hospitality Institute) checked in with some thoughts on our story about Bethesda’s nightlife scene and how alcohol regulation could play into an upcoming “night-time economy initiative” from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring.
Durbin said that while there are outdated alcohol regulations that will be examined, maximizing the area’s night-time economy is primarily about providing safe places to go while balancing the concerns of businesses and the community.
“I really feel like we’ve come a long way in Montgomery County for nightlife,” Durbin said. “It’s a culture change, a culture shift.”
On the perception that Montgomery County hampers bars and restaurants that make up its nightlife economy, Durbin said the county does need to “have something more structured,” to support those places.
“It’s a question to ask the businesses. If you’re looking at Bethesda and all these town centers that have been developed, there are lots of things to do. It’s really about what the businesses and the community wants in an area,” Durbin said. “I see a lot of action happening in Bethesda. The big thing that drives people is a clean area and a safe area. We just have to be mindful, this isn’t something new.”
Durbin, who recently wrote legislation to allow craft beer growlers at Bradley Food and Beverage on Arlington Road, remembered working and living in a Bethesda with a number of popular night-time hangouts. She also pointed out that affordable housing, not easy to come by in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, is key.
“It’s funny when I hear people say they want to get out of Montgomery County,” Durbin said. “It’s a great community, a place where I lived in my 20s and where I brought my children up.”