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ABRA to Host Books and Records Training Seminar

On September 25, 2014, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) will host a Books and Records Training seminar. ABC licensees of hotels and restaurants are invited to attend.

Training will cover:

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

Two training sessions are available:

  • 9–11 a.m. (Spanish interpreter available)
    or
  • 2-4 p.m. (Korean interpreter available)

Please contact Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Compliance Analyst Monica Clark by Friday, September 19 to RSVP:

Training is free of charge.

Training Location

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

New D.C. Guidelines Clears Operation of Certain Online Alcohol Services

On August 14, 2014, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (“Board”) issued new guidelines that will allow unlicensed websites and smartphone applications to provide alcohol services in the District.

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) recently reviewed several technology businesses that partner with liquor-licensed retailers to provide alcohol order and delivery services, among which are Drizly and Klink, internet-based alcohol delivery services. The Board did not find their business models in violation of D.C. law.

The Board advises technology companies facilitating the sale of alcohol through websites and apps to limit their operations to:

  • Connecting consumers over the Internet to District retailers such as liquor and grocery stores; and/or
  • Promoting a retailer’s alcoholic products.

Technology companies are restricted from:

  • Soliciting, selling and shipping orders for alcoholic beverages;
  • Storing alcoholic beverages for sale to consumers; and
  • Collecting any money, fees or transacting any credit or debit cards for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Any credit or debit card information provided to a website or app would need to be transferred to a liquor-licensed retailer in order to complete the transaction. The licensee would also need to retain the discretion to process or deny any order.

The Alcohol delivery service, Ultra, which runs on a similar model to Drizly and Klink, was subject to a cease-and-desist order from ABRA in late June of this year. However, unlike Drizly and Klink, Ultra acts as the collector of customers’ payments before forwarding the amount, minus its commission, to its partner D.C. liquor stores.

A technology company that violates D.C. law could be subject to criminal and civil penalties as well as an order to cease operations in the District.  A licensed retailer that violates the law could face fines and possible suspension or revocation of its license.

ABRA Hosts ID Compliance Training

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) will be hosting a special ID Compliance training for ABC licensees and their staff to review:

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

Training sessions will be held:

  • 9-11 a.m., Friday, Sept. 12
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12
  • 3-5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12
  • 9-11 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 13
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13
  • 3-5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13
  • 9-11 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 14 (Korean interpreter available)
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 14 (Spanish interpreter available)
  • 3-5 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 14

RSVP for training by contacting ABRA Operations Manager Jackie Richardson at:

Training Location

  • 2000 14th St., NW, Suite 400 South, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20009

Labor Day Weekend the End of Extended Holiday Hours Program

The extended holiday hours program allows on-premise establishments to stay open twenty-four hours a day, and to serve alcohol before 4 a.m. on certain holidays and holiday weekends. The Labor Day Weekend will be the last time this summer that establishments registered for extended holiday hours can stay open later for an entire weekend.

During Labor Day Weekend, alcohol service must end at 4 a.m. on the mornings of Saturday, Aug. 30; Sunday, Aug. 31; and Monday, Sept. 1.

On-premise establishments that want to participate in the extended holiday hours program have until Friday, August 1 to do so.  Once the licensee is signed up for the program, the establishment can participate in all eligible holidays listed on the calendar during the same year. The calendar is available here: http://abra.dc.gov/node/695172

Application is available here: http://abra.dc.gov/node/671792.

While the summer holidays end with the Labor Day Weekend, Columbus Day Weekend on Monday, Oct. 13, mark the beginning of the fall extended holiday hours.

New Permit Allows On-Premise Consumption at D.C. Breweries

On July 14, 2014, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) made available a new permit that will allow on-premise consumption of alcohol at breweries located in the District of Columbia. The permit is a provision of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014.

A brewery located in the District of Columbia can apply for an on-site sales and consumption permit with ABRA under the Manufacturer Tasing Permit Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. With the permit, customers can purchase and consume beer that is brewed at the brewery on the brewery’s premise from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

The annual fee for the permit is $1,000.  Interested parties can apply for the permit here:
http://abra.dc.gov/node/864522

The permit is not mandatory for brewers.  In addition, if a brewery wishes to offer free samples of beer to customers on its premise, it must apply for a separate tasting permit to do so. 

Adam’s Morgan Moratorium Renewed, New Restaurant Licenses Available

On July 9, 2014, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (“ABC Board”) renewed the Adams Morgan moratorium zone.  The ABC Board consulted with the business community and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C, which provided a proposal to modify some of aspects of the moratorium.

The ABC Board adopted the ANC’s proposal to remove the prohibition on new restaurant licenses in the moratorium zone.  In considering this request, the ABC board commented that more licenses can foster greater competition in the Adams Morgan commercial zone, which will ultimately lead to improvement in services for customers. However, the other restrictions, including ones on tavern and multipurpose facilities licenses, nightclub licenses, and promotional activities focused on nightclub and pub-crawl activities, are still in place.

The ABC Board also decided to reduce the term of the moratorium from five to three years, in order to monitor the effect of the extra restaurant licenses in the area.

The renewal is currently in effect only as on an emergency basis, however, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period pending final approval from the District of Columbia Council. Members of the public who wish to submit public comment can send theirs to martha.jenkins@dc.gov.

The exact geographic boundaries of the moratorium zone can be found here:
http://abra.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/abra/publication/attachments/Adams_Morgan_ABC_Moratorium.pdf

ABRA Issues Cease and Desist Order to Online Alcohol Vendor

On June 26, 2014, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”) issued a cease-and-desist order against an online business that sells alcoholic beverages in the District of Columbia as a third-party without a license. 

ABRA issued the order to online alcohol vendor Ultra for selling alcoholic beverages in Washington, D.C. without a license. Ultra partners with local liquor stores to deliver alcohol directly to local consumers.  Consumer pays Ultra directly; Ultra then forwards the payment to the local liquor store minus an agreed upon percentage that is retained by Ultra.

Under District of Columbia law, no person or entity is permitted to sell or solicit orders for sale any alcoholic beverage without the proper license.  However, not all online sales are illegal. Liquor stores that have the proper licenses in Washington, D.C. can conduct online sales and deliveries in the District of Columbia.

ABRA issued an advisory opinion (Board Order No. 2013-062) last year related to “the operation of a similar online business,” with consistent findings.

ABRA Hosts New ABC Holder Orientation Session

ABRA will be hosting an orientation training session for new ABC license holders and other members of the public on Thursday, August 14th, from 2-5:00 p.m.

According to ABRA, the training will cover:

  • District ABC laws and regulations (including recent changes to the law)
  • Working with the community
  • Settlement Agreements
  • Expectations of ABC licensees
  • Tips for best practices
  • Noise abatement and sound management

Training will be held at:

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

Contact ABRA Community Resource Advisor Sarah Fashbaugh by Friday, August 8 to register:

Attendance for this training is free, and is strongly recommended by ABRA. Requests for interpreters may be made; however, they must be submitted by the RSVP date.

 

Montgomery County Council Contemplates DLC Reform

Montgomery’s unique government-owned liquor distribution and retail system is once again in the cross-hair of reformers. Montgomery County Councilman Hans Riemer is the newest addition to a long list of politicians, as well as non-governmental campaigners who attempted to change, or abolish the system altogether.  Mr. Riemer is worried about the competitiveness of the alcohol monopoly of the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (“DLC”).  In an era where consumers’ selection of wines and beers is becoming more and more diverse due to the rise of micro-brews and family-run wineries, Mr. Riemer is concerned about the structural impediments that keep the DLC’s inventory limited to only the largest and most ubiquitous brands.  

Mr. Riemer’s sentiments are shared by many hospitality entrepreneurs who do business in Montgomery County.  One restaurant owner complained that under the current system, he must keep at least $20,000 tied down in inventory due to the slow speed of the DLC’s order fulfillment, as well as its limited selection.  For example, the DLC only fulfills orders once per week, even for the most popular beer and wine brands, when most orders placed elsewhere to private enterprises get filled the next day. Moreover, because the DLC places the burden of introducing new items to its inventory on the brewers and distillers themselves, many boutique brewers do not bother to navigate the complex bureaucratic process to place their items on the DLC inventory—and these items are therefore not stocked in the DLC warehouse.  For orders of these esoteric brands and distilled liquor, the DLC resorts to a “special order” system that outsources fulfillment to third-party agents at the cost of a markup that reaches 35% of shelf price, as well as wait periods of as long as two months.  These obstacles force restaurateurs and bar owners to invest in large inventories to anticipate the increasingly diverse preferences of customers.

Consequently, alcohol in Montgomery County is both harder to find and costs more than elsewhere.  This increased cost hurts businesses as well as consumers, and, given that Montgomery County is trying to attract more millennial settlers, who favor microbrews and craft-cocktails, to replace its graying tax-base, its restrictive alcohol policy is unlikely to do itself any favors.  Many who recognize these problems, whether they are local politicians or entrepreneurs, tried to either reform the most cumbersome parts of the DLC system or abolish it altogether in favor of the private market.  Yet, their attempts have been all thwarted so far.  The DLC lobby is quite powerful both in the county and in the statehouse in Annapolis, and successfully withstood these challenges for about twenty years.

The lobby is powerful for a multitude of reasons.  First, the union United Food and Commercial Workers, which counts 350 DLC employees among its members, remains a steadfast supporter of the status quo, though it recently warmed to the idea of reforms that will both make the existing system more efficient and keep the wages and benefits of DLC workers intact.  Second, the Montgomery County government is still a strong supporter of the DLC, because the latter contributes over $20 million a year to the county’s revenues.  These revenues are unlikely to be replaced should the DLC be privatized, according to the county government.

Therefore, the current reform proposal by Mr. Riemer does not attempt to dismantle the DLC altogether.  Instead, it seeks to make the DLC more efficient and more responsive to the needs of its customers.  Some of the key recommendations of the proposal are:

  • Develop an educational Patron Responsibility Program.
  • Utilize the Alcohol Beverage Advisory Boardto study and make recommendations regarding special orders, product placement, and customer service for the Department of Liquor Control.
  • Formalize the Department of Liquor Control Early Assistance Team and CountySafetyAlliance.
  • Expedite completion and implementation of the Department of Liquor Control Warehouse Management system in order to effect immediate improvements to selection, ordering, and delivery processes.
  • Support an Office of Legislative Oversight study, in conjunction with CountySTAT and other agencies as appropriate, to better understand how the Department of Liquor Control can improve its services and efficiencies in support of its nighttime economy.
  • Extend the hours of operation for venues with beer/wine/liquor licenses to 2 am on Sundays through Thursdays, and to 3 am on Fridays, Saturdays, and the Sundays before Monday federal holidays.
  • Expedite the creation of a social venue license, and modify the current alcohol to food ratio under the Class B beer/wine/liquor license from 50/50 to 60/40, to reflect the change in increased demand for higher quality, higher priced alcoholic beverages and to encourage establishment and operation of venues that host live music and other events.

Mr. Riemer also emphasized his commitment to DLC employees.  However, others prefer the complete privatization of the DLC.  Maryland’s State Comptroller Peter Franchot, a resident of Takoma Park, just recently urged Montgomery County’s business community to push for privatization.  He promised to conduct a feasibility study of privatization, and he believes the losses to the county’s revenue can be made up through increased economic activity, as well as Montgomery County customers returning to the county to do their shopping.  He also believes his plans can succeed if the business community and the public join him. Many entrepreneurs also see privatization as the best outcome.

ABRA Discusses Adams Morgan Moratorium Zone

On May 9, 2014, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (Board) held a hearing on two proposals regarding the future of a current moratorium on new restaurant, tavern, nightclub and multipurpose licenses in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. During the hearing, local residents, civil society and business owners submitted comments and offered testimonies, with their positioning varying from modifying the terms of the moratorium, to extending the status quo, to its abolishment altogether.

Under the current terms of the moratorium, ABRA will not issue any restaurant, tavern, nightclub and multipurpose licenses in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The number of existing tavern and multipurpose licenses is also limited to ten, and other license holders cannot change its license class to tavern or multipurpose if there are already ten such licenses. Hotels and off-premise retailers (class A and B) are exempt from the moratorium.

The Board is expected to vote on a decision before the moratorium expires on July 12, 2014.

The boundaries of the Adams Morgan moratorium zone can be found here.