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Montgomery Co. to revamp nighttime economy

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ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A Montgomery County panel will explore loosening liquor laws and integrating more bars and restaurants aimed at young people in new developments in an effort to make the county more hip.

The county's Nighttime Economy Task Force, created earlier this month, has started meeting to find ways to make the county more attractive to young adults.

County Executive Ike Leggett proposed the task force after discovering the county's young professional population has remained stagnant while more retirees move in.

The task force is charged with proposing legislative and policy changes that can be made in the county and state to encourage young people to live there. Members will examine making liquor laws less stringent in the county, determine whether bars should be open later and where nighttime businesses would be located, among other items.

Heather Dlhopolsky, the task force's chairwoman, said it's becoming increasingly difficult for young adults and people in their late 20s and mid-30s to find affordable housing and entertainment. And if no young adults live in the county, businesses that cater to them won't come either, she said.

Making it more affordable for young people to move in would attract more bars and restaurants, like those found in the District of Columbia and in Arlington, Va., she said.

"It costs an awful lot to live here," she said. "Young people who can't afford condos that start at $800,000 won't live here. That's a huge issue. If young people can't afford to live here, they're not going out here."

Dlhopolsky said the task force can generate ideas about how to get businesses here in the county, and that includes enabling more bars and restaurants to open up shop with less stringent liquor laws.

Ana Lopez van Balen, director of the Mid-County Regional Center, said subcommittees inside the task force will focus on specific issues and make recommendations to the entire panel. She said officials in Montgomery County are reconsidering how to brand the county and how they attract people to live and play there.

"(The growing population gap) raises a number of questions," she said. "How did we get to the point of having such a distorted ratio? What's the work that needs to be done?"

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Information from: The Washington Examiner, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com

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