Eat, drink, be safe [Editorial]

Not so many years ago, there was a genuine concern expressed by the greater Bel Air community, as well as in this editorial space, about the town’s emergence as a popular nightlife center and how it would impact the general quality of life of the town, in particular public safety.

There were and continue to be a few well-publicized incidents that raised such concerns, but they shouldn’t be considered in a vacuum. Indeed, Bel Air has become an entertainment destination – which runs the gamut from eating, drinking and dancing.

It’s generally the middle activity that generates the concern, but let’s also be clear that people started coming to Bel Air at night because the opportunities were presented that they could have fun in a relatively safe environment closer to home. In other words, they didn’t have to travel 20-plus miles to Baltimore and risk muggings or having their vehicles towed or much worse.

As the Bel Air night scene has evolved, the town’s police department also has become infinitely better at keeping control over it, which is a credit to both the department’s leaders and officers, but to town elected and appointed officials and the restaurant and club owners. Is the situation perfect? No, but we certainly think it is being managed well within available resources.

This past Friday’s story that the owners of AleCraft Brewing Supply on Bond Street are planning to open a craft brewery and tap house in part of the Preston’s building on South Main Street is yet another example of how far Bel Air has emerged as an entertainment center. That news came on the heels of our recent story about major renovations to the Main Street Tower to accommodate its growing entertainment business.

AleCraft, which will move its supplies business to the new location as well, would become the second craft brewer along Main Street, joining Independent Brewing Co., which opened on North Main two years ago.

That the Bel Air scene can support two craft brewers will remain to be seen, but there was similar skepticism when the Looney’s, MaGerks, Sean Bolan’s and Ropewalk of Baltimore notoriety opened northern their annexes in Bel Air during the last decade. Except for Ropewalk, they are still around.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance, the non-profit business organization which has done an excellent job of promoting the entertainment and nightlife destination concept, had a marketing study done a couple of years ago which opined the town could support more eating and drinking establishments.

That suggestion might have been a little excessive at the time, but as these kinds of businesses have a tendency to come and go anyway, it would seem any growth of this sort is good for the town’s economy and its tax base.

As long as the quality of life, public safety in particular, are not being compromised, Bel Air should continue to grow as a night-time destination and everyone should prosper from it.

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