Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019
News

"This place is full of old stories": Maryland's historic restaurant is set to become a marijuana dispensary

The site where Tastee Diner is located along Washington Boulevard should be sold to a marijuana dealer. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post) At Laurel's Diner Tastee Diner, waitresses and cooks recognize regulars sitting on blue stools beside the gold-plated counter. "George! Donna Rock, waitress and cashier, then asked that she clean a booth." Dead? In prison? Rock had not seen the old white haired man – one of his most loyal customers – in a month. He quietly sipped a cup of coffee in the 1950s, then answered. "Jail," he says, causing laughter. It is this bond of humor and compassion, developed over the last forty years between clients and employees, that residents fear losing in a plan that turns dinner into a medical marijuana clinic. The long-time owner of the restaurant sells the site to a Bethesda area company that will be putting marijuana on the menu.
Donna Rock, who was on leave but still helping, gives a kiss to George Jones, a regular she has not seen recently. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post) The Conservatives want to end the agreement, saying that the stainless steel design of the facility is one of the few existing facades manufactured by Comac, a manufacturer known in the 1950s for its customers who made stainless steel or aluminum dishes. Regular customers, meanwhile, are sad to see him leave. "It's a reliable habit," said Bruce Juba, a 72-year-old retired US Treasury employee, while sitting in a kiosk eating beef stew. He and his wife have come to dinner several times a week for 40 years. They remember when some waitresses were new mothers decades ago. Now they have grandchildren.

Bruce and Anne Juba, both 72, have been coming to the Tastee Dinner for 40 years. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post) "You can not find a place like this that is continuous, especially in such an ephemeral place," said Juba. City officials are expected to decide Tuesday whether to allow the Pure Hana Synergy marijuana distribution company to operate on the site. Francesca DeMauro-Palminteri, founder and vice president of marketing for the company, said the agreement was subject to approval by the city.[[[[
The future ghosts of downtown Bethesda]She has visited more than 200 sites in Maryland after obtaining a license to open a cannabis clinic, and the Laurel restaurant meets the state's criteria, she said. If approved, construction is expected to begin early next year, with an opening in June. It would become one of 70 marijuana dispensaries for medical purposes of the state. According to state officials, these clinics recorded sales of about $ 96 million from December 2017 to November of this year. The possible closing of the restaurant, which is open 24/7 every day of the week, left employees nervous and nostalgic customers. Previously, there was a lumberyard where MARC commuter train parking is located. There were men's and women's clothing stores and a furniture store along Main Street, which officials are trying to revitalize. Through all this, dinner has remained. Clients said they liked to see the same staff at each visit, as well as the customer's memories. A plaque near the kitchen says, "Do not criticize the coffee, you may be old and weak someday." A bumper sticker on a wall says: "Smokers are also voters!" [Landmark Tastee diner a comforting constant as ‘new’ Bethesda grows around it] The restaurant's owner, Gene Wilkes, has been operating the Laurel's location since the 1970s. It also has two other Tastee restaurants, one in Silver Spring and the other in Bethesda. Wilkes did not return several requests for comments. Long-time clients and employees say that Laurel's location has a greater historical significance than the others. The current release of the Tastee Diner is the third on the Laurel site. It was originally known as Laurel Diner in the 1930s. And in the 1950s, the building was replaced by a structure designed to resemble an old tramway and manufactured by the company Comac Diner Co. New Jersey-based Wilkes took over the restaurant in the mid-1970s, announced the locals and then renamed it's the Tastee Diner.
The restaurants at Laurel & # 39; s Tastee Diner were seen on August 9, 1981. Conservatives have expressed concern that the unique features of the restaurant, both indoors and outdoors, will be damaged or destroyed during the renovation. creation of a marijuana clinic on the site. "We are a historic city and the restaurant is part of it," said Karen Lubieniecki, president of the Laurel Historical Society. "Plus, the guests are cool. They build new ones and make them look like old-fashioned guests. Here we have one who looks old, but they want to destroy him. Richard Friend, who grew up in Laurel and
keeps a blog about the history of the city and has launched an online petition to save the restaurant that has more than 2,200 signatures. The Conservatives said they were not opposed to the owner selling to the clinic, but would prefer that the building be moved to a vacant place along Main Street and either preserved or managed by other restorer. Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe said he was not interested. He added that the vacant site where the Conservatives want to install the restaurant will likely become a parking lot. Moe said the city had reached an agreement with the leaders of Pure Hana to ensure that the building's exterior and souvenirs were given to the local historical society. [It’s chromey and homey] Nevertheless, there is a sense of loss on the likely closing of the dinner. Friend, a 46-year-old graphic artist who now lives about 40 miles from Centerville, Va., Goes to the restaurant on the weekends to get scrambled eggs, toast and coffee for about $ 7. He remembers seeing a child with his parents at Tastee Diner. When his father fell ill with cancer last year and needed treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his mother did not like driving, so they met at the restaurant. Staff members monitored his truck as they drove to the hospital. After the death of his father, said Ami, he received a sympathy card signed by the restaurant employees. "It's just something that no longer happens," he said. "It's a special place. People care. It's a lost art of doing business. "
Joy Farmer, age 70, daughter Melissa McDonald and granddaughter Emily Buckley, 28, work at Tastee Diner. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post) Most of the 30 or so restaurant staff, some of whom live in a nearby motel, have been working there for years. Joy Farmer, 70, is the oldest of three generations of her family to work there. She started at the Tastee restaurant at age 25, before serving as a waitress, manager, cashier and cook to order, but took a break at some point to take care of her family. Then she came back. Why? Customers. "I love people," said Farmer, whose daughter and granddaughter also work in this business. "You know everyone here. That's what's happening here. Rock, the waitress and cashier, said the workers are anxious but are not angry with Wilkes for selling after managing three restaurants for decades. "The building is a piece of aluminum," Rock said. "Most of us are wondering where we are going." 62-year-old Jeff Dudley, who works as a team leader, recounted that he remembered attending the Tastee Diner on special occasions with his family. After 20 years of work elsewhere, he returned to work. "This place is full of old stories, but nobody wants to hear them anymore," he said. As his eyes filled with tears, he added, "It's home."

The longtime owner of Tastee Diner plans to sell it to a medical marijuana clinic. (Katherine Frey / The Washington Post)

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