"I'm ecstatic for him," she says. "This place is already great, but it's really going to be rocking soon."

In other parts of town, the disappointment was palpable. At Tom and Ray's, where a sign in the front window reads "Our Kind of Town — Damascus, Md.," the manager on duty wasn't prepared to comment. He declined to give his name.

Miller, a Damascus resident who runs the Red Rooster with her husband, Kevin, says her place employs underage kids behind the counter, and she has no intention of allowing her old-fashioned eatery to set a bad example for them.

Restaurants that have added alcohol to their menus in nearby towns like Germantown and Mount Airy have gone on to experience problems with violence, she adds.

"I don't want anything to do with that," she says during a break. "Things are tough enough as they are."

Across the street, lifelong resident Gary Richard was hanging drywall at one of the two Damascus gas stations he owns.

Richard, 60, has long been one of the most vocal opponents of lifting the ban.

He says the town's many sub-and-pizza shops would soon be serving beer, and that would expose too many underage residents to the temptation to drink at a time when they should be focusing on their studies.

"Now that people can get Class H permits, they'll eventually be arguing to get every other kind," he says, adding that this would lead to social decay more quickly than some realize.

At the Music Cafe, few seemed worried by such dire prognostications. Anderson, who has been vocally backing the change for years, says only two of the hundreds of visitors to his restaurant's Facebook page had ever written that they'd stop coming in if he served wine or beer.

On Thursday, he said, they stopped by to tell him they'd changed their mind. They would remain loyal customers.

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," he says. "That seems to be the feeling around here now. And that's all right with me."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

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