by David Holzel
Shalom Strictly Kosher lost its bid on July 5 to transfer its alcoholic beverage license from its location on University Boulevard to a planned new location at the site of Magruder's in the Kemp Mill Shopping Center.
The Board of License Commissioners for Montgomery County voted 3-2 in favor of a motion to grant the transfer. A unanimous vote was necessary, said Eugene M. Thirolf, board chairman.
Much of the public comment concerned the competition Shalom would presumably pose to Kemp Mill stores Shaul's Kosher Market and Kemp Mill Beer and Wine.
In response, Shalom owner Larry Dekelbaum told the board that he was in negotiations with Shaul's owners. "We're trying to come up with some kind of agreement - so the rabbis in the Jewish community will respect it," he said.
No representative from Shaul's spoke at the hearing, but several long-time Kemp Mill Beer and Wine customers spoke against the license transfer. Customer Ralph Gant, who uses a wheelchair, said store owner Sateytna Kumar "has been a friend of people with disabilities." Competition for beer and wine sales from Shalom "would just knock him out of business."
Kumar told the board that half of his wine sales are from kosher wines. His wife, Bharati Kumar, said, "If they get the license, we can't survive. No way. Because the whole neighborhood is Jewish people, and we can't compete."
Board member Fred Silverman reminded his colleagues that the board's job was "to protect the community from the bad effects of alcohol" and not to shield particular license-holders from competition.
Other members were swayed by the argument that Shalom could drive Kemp Mill Beer and Wine out of business, and they denied the consensus necessary to approve Shalom's license transfer.