Commentary: Bethesda is perhaps Washington’s oldest suburb in the sense of being purely a bedroom community, but it has since become a city in its own right with the usual inner-suburb problems — not enough parking and too many deer.
BETHESDA, Md. - I’m old. I know it. My idea of burning the candle at both ends is to stay up late enough to catch the weather on the 11 p.m. news. I can’t remember the last time I was out with a group that closed up a saloon. I’ve had a double knee replacement. I commute in a little four-door sedan that’s an indeterminate tone of beige.
As I say, I’m old. But I don’t need my local elected officials reminding me of it. Worse yet, they hint, oh so indirectly, that I would be doing Bethesda an economic and social favor if I made way for a younger, more desirable demographic — the 18- to 34-year-olds who are smart enough to be pulling down big salaries but too callow to realize that they should be saving for their kids’ college education and their own retirement.
Before these familial responsibilities arrive, which they will do with frightening rapidity, the Montgomery County Council thinks — according to a Washington Post article — that these folks should be investing this extra capital in the local nightlife so Bethesda and its adjacent suburbs become a “hipster magnet.”
Bethesda is perhaps Washington’s oldest suburb in the sense of being purely a bedroom community, but it has since become a city in its own right with the usual inner-suburb problems — not enough parking and too many deer.
To lure “Generation Y” out of the more-happening neighborhoods in Washington, the county is proposing the creation of a “Task Force on the Night Time Economy” to study ways, says Post, “to enliven the bar, music and after-hours dining scenes.” Where was this task force when I was interested in civic involvement? Instead, I was an officer of a chain of nonprofit day-care centers.
Bethesda — thanks to my generation, which is now supposed to get out of the way — has one of the best restaurant districts in the Washington area. But apparently that’s not good enough. We gather, eat dinner, carefully monitoring our alcoholic intake, and then quietly say our good nights and go home.
The county is looking for a younger, more raucous breed of restaurant-goer. It is considering loosening the liquor laws and noise ordinances. The county also wants to identify those areas that are, in a wonderful new formulation, “under-barred.” Apparently my generation wasn’t drunk or loud enough. I wish the authorities had said something at the time. I’m sure we could have stepped up our game if we had known it was our civic duty.
Nor do the authorities seem to sense an inherent contradiction in trying to attract patrons to bigger bars with louder music that stay open later and their ominous public-service ads that warn of the grim fate in store for anyone who fails a breath test.
One county council member offered an interesting economic rationale for attracting Generation Y at the expense of Generation Hip Replacement, the Post reported. The county spends $180,000, grades K through 12, to educate each youngster. And once they turn 21, what do the ingrates do?
They go to D.C. to drink and party or, worse and even more embarrassing, to Northern Virginia.
Even at my advanced age, I’m in favor of a lively bar scene.
Heaven knows, I’ve supported enough of them in my time. But I offer this cautionary tale: A neighbor of ours moved to a Washington neighborhood noted for its quaint houses and plenitude of bars. After awhile she moved back. She got tired, she said, of the late-night noise and people urinating in her basement-window wells and getting sick on her front steps.
The county council should be careful what it wishes for.
My generation can hold its liquor, doesn’t shout and gets home in time to catch the weather forecast. You feel the cold at our age.
Dale McFeatters can be reached at McFeattersD@SHNS.com.