Bill passes to allow liquor licenses near Laurel churches

A bill passed by the General Assembly Wednesday opens the door for places of worship to move to Laurel's Main Street and other business areas, and for restaurants to serve alcohol, regardless of their proximity to a church.

"This is a win-win for everybody," said Kevin McGhee, president of the Laurel Clergy Association and pastor of Bethany Community Church.

The bill would allow the Laurel City Council to waive the restriction in state law that prohibits businesses in Prince George's County that are located within 500 feet of a church from obtaining a liquor license.

The bill passed the House 135-0 and the Senate 47-0.

While the bill covers all of Laurel, Main Street and the Route 1 corridor will see the biggest impact, McGhee said.

A similar bill was proposed last year, but was not approved by the Prince George's County Delegation, he said.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe, the bill's sponsor in the Senate, called the outcome "a boost for quality economic development and quality of life in Laurel."

"It's a significant step forward for Main Street, " he said.

Salute Ristorante Italiano will be one of the first restaurants to apply for a liquor license when they become available, according to Meriem Kass, who runs the restaurant with her husband Abdellah.

Without a liquor license, Salute patrons have only been able to bring their own wine for dinner, Kass said.

She's hopeful the license will bring more business to Salute and more people to Main Street.

"This is good news, we are so glad," Kass said.

The law will go in effect Oct. 1.

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