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Restaurateurs Camp Out for ABRA’s Georgetown Licenses

On the evening of April 10, 2014, a number of restaurateurs camped overnight in front of the DC Reeves Municipal Center, waiting to submit applications for the three restaurant licenses and one tavern license which the DC alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) made available in the Georgetown Historic District. The camping was necessary because of ABRA’s “first-come, first-serve” policy for the available licenses.

Here is the list of applicants from ABRA:

  • Restaurant Enterprises, Inc. trading as Smith Point (applied for a tavern license)
  • AN & JM (trade name is TBD) (applied for a restaurant license)
  • FR & LH, LLC (trade name is TBD) (applied for a restaurant license)
  • Ching, LLC trading as So MI (applied for a restaurant license)
  • Luke’s Lobster VIII, LLC trading as Luke’s Lobster (applied for a restaurant license)
  • Georgetown Restaurant Partners, LLC (trade name is TBD) (applied for a restaurant license)
  • Restaurants, LLC trading as Yummi Crawfish and Seafood Restaurant (applied for a restaurant license)
  • Prospect Dining, LLC trading as George (applied for a tavern license)

There has been a moratorium on liquor licenses in the Georgetown Historic District since the 1990s. The number of restaurant licenses has been holding steady at 68, and tavern licenses at 6.

Liquor licenses rarely become available through ABRA in Georgetown. When Gypsy Sally’s recently obtained a tavern license, it had been 20 years since such an opening.

For more information on the licenses, please see here.

ABRA To Host ID Compliance Training Sessions

From April 25 – April 27, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) will be hosting a series of ID compliance training sessions for ABC licensees and their staff. According to ABRA, the training topics will include:

  • Techniques for properly verifying IDs
  • Tips for spotting fake IDs
  • Information on ABRA compliance checks

The training sessions will be during the following dates and times:

  • 9-11 a.m., Friday, April 25
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Friday, April 25
  • 3-5 p.m., Friday, April 25
  • 9-11 a.m., Saturday, April 26
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 26
  • 3-5 p.m., Saturday, April 26
  • 9-11 a.m., Sunday, April 27 (Korean interpreter available)
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Sunday, April 27 (Spanish interpreter available)
  • 3-5 p.m., Sunday, April 27

To RSVP for the training sessions, contact ABRA Operations Manager Jackie Richardson at:

Training will be located at the ReevesCenter:

2000 14th Street, NW
Suite 400 South, 4th Floor
Washington, DC20009

Four ABRA Licenses Available in Georgetown

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) announced it will be accepting applications for 4 ABC licenses starting on Thursday, April 10th. The available licenses are:

  • One tavern license – available only to an existing restaurant located in Georgetown’s Historical District. Application may be made for either a tavern or  nightclub license in the Historic District.
  • Three new restaurant licenses (either C/R or D/R) in Georgetown.

The number of restaurant licenses is capped at 68 in the Georgetown neighborhood; there are currently 65 operating licenses, while the three available are currently “underperforming” or “left on the shelf.”

 

To apply for a tavern license, applicants should:

  • Complete a License Class Change application.
  • Submit the application and all required materials in person to ABRA beginning at 8:30 am on Thursday, April 10. The office is located at the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street, NW, Suite 400 South, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20009.

To apply for a new restaurant license, applicants should:

  • Complete an ABC License application.
  • Submit a Tax Registration Certificate with the application. Obtain a Tax Registration form by filing for a DC business tax number at the Office of Tax and Revenue.
  • Provide a Clean Hands Certificate with the application. The Clean Hands Certification form (to be filled out when you obtain your certificate) is included with the ABC License application, and confirms that you do not owe more than $100 in outstanding debts to the District.
  • Submit the application and all required materials in person to ABRA beginning at 8:30 am on Thursday, April 10. The office is located at the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street, NW, Suite 400 South, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20009.

Completed applications for the licenses will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and are subject to the consideration of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Members of the public who have questions can call ABRA at 202-442-4423.

 

You can find the boundary of the Georgetown Historic District here.

DC Council Introduces Bill to Regulate Event Promoters

In response to several incidents of violence at promoter-hosted events in DC, DC Councilman Jim Graham introduced a bill that would require independent event and party promoters in DC to be licensed by the DC government. Specifically, licensed promoters would have to attend training sessions conducted by the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”), maintain personal liability umbrella insurance with a minimum liability limit of $3 million, and pay a $250 registration fee. In justifying the bill, Mr. Graham noted three serious incidents of violence near bars and restaurants which occurred during promoter-hosted events during the last two years.

However, many promoters are against the new regulations. One seasoned promoter believes the bill is targeting the wrong people. He notes that even though promoters are tasked with bringing in patrons and even hosting the events, the security and the responsibility to operate the premise still lies entirely within the purview of the restaurant operator, as is codified in DC hospitality laws. While violent incidents are unfortunate, unavoidable occurrences, the main responsibility should lie with the owner and operator of the venue, not the promoters, as is clearly stipulated in DC law. The instances where promoters were given partial control over the venue due to poor management or lax security should never have happened if existing laws were adequately enforced. In addition, he noted that the bill can be easily evaded if the venue simply registers independent promoters as temporary staff during events.

Council members Anita Bonds and Jack Evans co-sponsored the bill. It has been referred to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs.

ABRA Hosting Books and Records Training Seminar

On Thursday, March 27, DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) will be holding a books and records training seminar for ABC licensees of hotels and restaurants. According to ABRA, training will cover:

  • Food sales requirements
  • Food sales reporting
  • Quarterly statement filings
  • Books and records tracking

There will be two separate training sessions: at 9–11 a.m. (where Spanish interpreter will be available) or 2-4 p.m. (where Korean interpreter will available).

RSVP by Friday, March 21 by contacting ABRA Compliance Analyst Monica Clark:

 

Training is free of charge.

Training Location
2000 14th Street, NW
Suite 400 South, 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20009

Maryland Passes Ban on High-Proof Grain Alcohol in State Senate

Everclear and other high-proof grain alcohol that are the staples of college parties may be banned in Maryland. On Feb. 2nd, the Maryland Senate voted 37-10 for a bill that will “prohibit a person from selling at retail an alcoholic beverage with alcohol content by volume of 95% (90 proof) or more.” Violators will be guilty of misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding $1000.  While the present volume of grain alcohol sales is fairly low, University presidents spearheaded the campaign for the ban due to the disproportionate use of grain alcohol in college parties.

This bill has been introduced to, and passed by the Maryland Senate twice in the past, but each time the bill died in the House Economic Matters Committee. However, the current Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis is supportive of the ban, and said he would be “surprised” if his committee did not vote for it.

The bill noted that it took into consideration the restrictions or bans placed on the retail of high-proof grain alcohol in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, three states bordering Maryland.

Sysco-U.S. Food Merger Could Affect Food Prices for Restaurants

On December 9, 2013, the two biggest U.S. food-distribution companies, Sysco Corporation (“Sysco”) and US Foods, Inc. (“US Foods”) announced an agreement to merge, creating a company which will control some 25% of the U.S. market, roughly five times the size of its next largest competitor, Performance Food Groups with just 5% market share.

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) will conduct the regulatory review to analyze if the merger is anti-competitive or monopolistic in nature.  There are two areas of concern.  First, Sysco and US Foods are arguably the only two companies which can provide food service distribution to national foodservice chains.  Second, the two firms overlap in many geographic areas throughout the country so it is possible that the combined entity may be one of two distributors that provide a one stop shop to small local restaurants, catering firms, and hotels in certain local markets.  Industry insiders note that local competition is intense with some 15,000 local food providers.  That being said, the local competition may not have the same breadth of products that Sysco or US Foods can provide and may not price as competitively because their prices are higher.

Notably, Sysco Chief Executive Bill DeLaney acknowledges that the deal will provide increased purchasing power and that the company might need to sell parts of the business to satisfy antitrust regulators.  Therefore, even the parties to the deal believe that some competition concerns exist in certain local markets or in a national market.

D.C. Council Supports Minimum Wage Increase but Excludes Tipped Employees

The D.C. Council approved a bill that would increase the city’s minimum wage to $11.50.  If approved by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the minimum wage will increase to $9.50 next summer; $10.50 in 2015, and $11.50 in 2016, a full year prior to similar bills passed in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.

The D.C. Council must hold a final vote on the rate-increase measure and send it to Gray, probably by early 2014.

Gray supports raising the minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $10 an hour in 2014, but no higher.  In September, Gray vetoed the Large Retailer Accountability Act, would have required big-box stores in the city to pay its employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour.

Notably, the bill excludes a wage increase to tipped employees, including waiters, bartenders, and busboys, whose current minimum is $2.77 per hour before tips.  The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington noted that restaurants have small profit margins and would be forced to raise prices and cut staff if they had to pay minimum wages to tipped employees.

Prince George’s County Council Votes to Raise Minimum Wage; County Executive Voices Concern

Following the lead of neighboring Montgomery County, Prince George’s Council voted to raise the county’s minimum wage to $11.50 over the next four years.

Despite collaboration between law makers in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia to consider similar wage bills, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is concerned that the bill will affect how competitive the county is in attracting new business.  The county is still attempting to recover from the thousands of jobs lost during the recession.

Baker has 10 working days to review the bill and decide whether to sign it, veto it or let it go into effect without his signature.

Montgomery County Council Votes to Raises Minimum Wage from $7.25 to $11.50

The Montgomery County Council voted 8-1 to increase the county’s minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to a historic high of $11.50.

The increase will be phased-in over the next four years. The rate would be $8.40 per hour on Oct. 1, 2014, $9.55 per hour on Oct 1, 2015, $10.75 per hour on Oct. 1, 2016, and $11.50 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017.

The vote came after four hours of debate, where last minute compromises were reached including applying the county minimum wage to tipped employees, deleting the health care credit, and adding an exemption for a person under the age of 19 who works 20 hours or less in a week.

Restaurant owners were vocal in their opposition to the bill and many testified before the Council in October arguing that the bill would hurt their industry, where food and labor costs have significant impact on the bottom line.  The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce also opposed the bill.

County Executive Executive Isiah Leggett said he will sign the bill.   Prince George’s County Council and the District of Columbia Council are also considering similar wage increases.

Update:

12/6/2013         

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) signed the county’s new minimum wage law at a ceremony on December 5, 2013.