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ABRA Yearly Alcohol Compliance Training Sessions Scheduled for May 18-20, 2012

The District of Columbia’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is holding its annual Alcohol Compliance Training Sessions on Friday, May 18, 2012, Saturday, May 19, 2012, and Sunday, May 20, 2012.

It is important for licensees to attend ABRA sessions, not only to demonstrate an effort to follow rules and regulations governing your alcohol license, but also to keep up-to-date on changing regulations.  Therefore, we encourage all alcohol licensees to attend or send a representative to such training sessions if possible.

Training sessions will be held at the Reeves Municipal Center, 2000 14th Street, N.W., 4th Floor.  Please RSVP to Jackie Richardson at (202) 442-4446 or [email protected]

To see session times, please click here.

Entrepreneurs, City Residents Face Off At Hearing On Extended Alcohol Sale Hours

On Tuesday night, Ward 1 Councilmember and Chairman of the Human Services Committee, Jim Graham, heard six-hours of testimony from District residents and the hospitality and business community members about D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposal to extend bar hours in order to raise $5 million in new revenue.

The witness list, available here, included 48 individuals as well as Fred Moosally, Director of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

Entrepreneurs endorsed Mayor Gray’s proposal and offered support to the idea that extended sales hours will increase revenue as well as boost the city’s reputation as a world-class hospitality destination.  Business owners pointed out that many establishments have Voluntary Agreements, which limit their operating hours.  Owners stated that this type of staggered closings, some bars closing earlier while other close later, would alleviate any concerns of excessive noise from patrons leaving the establishment at later hours.

In his testimony, Mr. Moosally confirmed that the extended hours would not apply to 267 bars, nightclubs and restaurants that have existing Voluntary Agreements with their neighbors.

Council member Graham appeared steadfast in his opposition to longer sale hours, particularly in light of the number of witnesses at the hearing from Adams Morgan and Kaloroma, neighborhoods located in the council member’s own ward, who opposed the extension of hours.  Neighborhood opponents argued that the longer hour would exacerbate existing noise and parking issues and create public safety concerns such as drunk driving.   Some opponents said they could support it if the extended hours were limited to downtown or in non-residential areas, however, Graham stated that would place some establishments at a competitive disadvantage against others who could close later.

Despite his disapproval of the Mayor’s proposal, if it does not pass, Graham would be forced to raise the $5 million in new revenue or make spending cuts to the city’s fiscal 2013 budget to replace the projected revenue expected from this proposal.

According to the Washington Post, Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown may have the final say on whether the fiscal year 2013 budget can remain balanced without Gray’s proposal. At a news conference Tuesday, Brown said he remains undecided on the proposal but understands community opposition.

To watch the entire six-hour hearing, click here.

ANC 1C Commissioner Voices Strong Opposition to Mayor’s Proposal to Extend the Hours of Alcohol Sales in the District

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (“ANC”) Olivier Kamanda publically opposed Mayor Vincent Gray’s proposal for raising revenue by allowing bars and nightclubs to serve alcohol until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends.

Kamanda is a commissioner of ANC 1C, the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which covers the area between Harvard St. and Rock Creek to the north, Florida Ave. and U St. to the south, 16th St. to the east, and Connecticut Ave. to the west, where many popular bars and nightclubs are located.  Kamanda cites the District’s adult alcohol abuse rate and residents’ concern for late-night noise, harassment, trash and vandalism for his opposition of extended service hours.

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Debate on Zoning Regulations on 14th Street Begin Again

As we discussed in our January blog, “Three Tips Every Restaurant Owner Should Consider Before Applying for a D.C. Liquor License“,it is important for business owners to learn about zoning regulations prior to signing a lease for a restaurant.  This is especially important in the Arts Overlay District, which covers 14th Street, N.W. from N Street to Florida Avenue, and U Street, N.W., from 9th to 15th Streets.  The area has become a hot spot for new and innovative restaurants in the District.

The Uptown Arts-Mixed Use (“ARTS”) Overlay District restricts the street frontage for eating and drinking establishments to only 50 percent of ground-floor retail space on any city square.  When the regulations were established in 1990, the maximum allowed street frontage was 25 percent.  In 2010, due to intense lobbying from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (“ANCs”) and business and community groups, the D.C. Zoning Commission increased the cap to 50 percent for street frontage for eating and drinking establishments.  At the time, it was believed to be a good compromise between encouraging retail and arts development while allowing new restaurants to fill vacate spaces in the area.

Missy Frederick of The Washington Business Journal recently wrote an article about the frustration of restaurant entrepreneurs and their retail brokers with this restriction, including delayed lease negotiations and empty store fronts.  Unless the D.C. Zoning Commission lifts this restriction, restaurant entrepreneurs must determine store frontage availability for their new restaurant ventures before signing any lease in the Arts Overlay District.