Montgomery County businesses open between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. that sell alcohol or tobacco will now have to develop late-night safety plans, under legislation passed by the County Council on Tuesday.
Bill 14-23, sponsored by Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) at the request of County Executive Marc Elrich (D), requires those enterprises to develop safety plans and obtain police approval for late-night operation. The safety plan would depend on the business and could include measures such as lights, cameras, security personnel and training.
The bill is a response to a rise in late night crime in downtown Silver Spring and other areas throughout the county. According to a memorandum from Elrich, many businesses have worked collaboratively with the Montgomery County Police Department to enact safety measures, but others have been less cooperative. The bill intends to ensure a uniform process for all late night businesses.
The legislation passed 9-2, with councilmembers Will Jawando (D-At-large) and Andrew Friedson (D-Dist. 1) opposed. It will apply to businesses across the entire county as opposed to just in specific areas, which had been proposed in a previous version of the bill.
The initial legislation would have applied to businesses open between midnight and 6 a.m. Jawando argued this plan was more equitable and would cover more businesses and provide greater safety measures. Only Jawando and councilmember Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5) voted to support this option.
Glass and councilmembers Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3) and Kate Stewart (D-Dist. 4) created the amended option that would apply only to businesses between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
It also applies to businesses that operate anytime between midnight and 2 a.m. and have been the subject of two or more service calls for law enforcement to respond to “serious incidents” during the prior 12 months. “Serious incidents” would include certain crimes identified by the police department.
Stewart said this option was created to better work with business owners. The bill has been controversial with local business owners, who have voiced concern it shifts the public safety responsibility to businesses.
Stewart created a grant program within the legislation for businesses to receive financial support from the county to fund security measures.
Katz said if this option doesn’t work and there is a need for the plan to apply to a larger time frame, the council could go back and pass the original plan. He said it could be considered a pilot program to address in a year and consider expanding.
Earl Stoddard, director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, said the goal is for the county and businesses to collaborate on their individual safety plans that may be unique to the specific business.
At a March public hearing, constituents expressed mixed views on the legislation, according to county testimony documents. The Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce supported the bill as a response to increased violence in the Silver Spring area and stated that the business safety plans would help assure that businesses “do their part” to improve public safety.
The Silver Spring Justice Coalition opposed the bill due to racial equity concerns and expressed the concern the legislation would disproportionately target Black- and brown-owned businesses and residents.
This is a developing story.