Skip to content

Posts from the ‘ANC’ Category

East Dupont Alcohol Moratorium Renewed; Restaurants Exempted From Ban

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (“Board”) not only voted to renew the 20 year old alcohol moratorium, which capped the number of alcohol licenses in the area, but it also voted to extended it approximately 600 feet in all directions from the intersection of 17th and Q streets, N.W.

The Board’s decision adopted the recommendations made by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (“ANC”) 2B and lifts the restrictions on licenses for restaurants, multipurpose facilities and off-premise retailers in the neighborhood, but maintains a two license cap for taverns and a prohibition on the issuance of any nightclub licenses.

This decision renews the moratorium for an additional three years.

ABC Board finds U Street Alcohol Moratorium ‘Not in the Public Interest’

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (“Board”) unanimously voted against a petition for a moratorium on the issuance of new liquor licenses in the District’s 14th and U Street corridor.

In December 2012, the Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance (“SDCA”) petitioned the Board to impose a moratorium on the issuance of liquor licenses for an area extending 1800 feet in radius from 1211 U Street, N.W.  SDCA claimed that the revitalization occurring on 14th Street had resulted in an over concentration of alcohol licenses which was affecting the quality of life for neighborhood residents.

In May 2013, the Board held a public hearing and heard over three hours of testimony from Advisory Neighborhood Committees (“ANCs”), citizen associations, neighborhood residents, property and business owners.  Notably, all of the ANCs (1B, 2B,2F, 6E) affected by the moratorium voted to oppose the Petition, as did the majority of the witnesses testifying at the hearing.

In rejecting the moratorium, the Board stated that “[it] does not find that the neighborhood suffers from an over concentration of licensed establishments or that additional establishments will adversely affect this area. Rather, there is a revival of economic development that is attracting businesses and residents alike to the U Street Corridor.  Indeed, rising real property values reflect the growing appeal of this neighborhood.”

You can find the Board order here.

U Street Neighborhood Torn Over Alcohol Issue

The ongoing dispute over alcohol licenses between businesses and disgruntled Washington, D. C. residents looks primed to escalate once again as the Shaw-Dupont Civic Association pushes a moratorium on new license acquisitions in the U Street area. If approved, this moratorium will be the fifth alcohol license freeze to be imposed in the District of Columbia in recent memory, following in the footsteps of similar moratoriums in Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Glover Park and Adams Morgan. Advocates have been vocal on both sides of the argument, highlighting a clear split in opinions regarding the issue within the community.

Proponents of the moratorium assert that the recent expansion of the highly lucrative bar scene into the U Street neighborhood has had a direct, adverse effect on residents’ quality-of-life, citing late-night clamors, scarcity of parking spaces and littering as key grievances. Furthermore, many claim that the steady inflow of alcohol-serving establishments in the neighborhood has come at the cost of displacing more traditional daytime businesses like retailers and small arts venues. Complementing this list is the citation of a letter from District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier that claims that four times the usual amount of police manpower is required in city blocks with ten bars or more.

Opponents of the moratorium, however, claim that the recent popularity of the U Street area owes itself to the dense concentration of bars, which draws in a large pool of customers eager to indulge in the city’s nightlife. The restaurant scene has revitalized the community and made it much safer for residents and raised property values in the once blighted neighborhood. Moreover, local bar owners have expressed doubts on the effectiveness of imposing a moratorium. They argue that a license freeze would stagnate the hospitality industry and make existing alcohol licenses expensive commodities, similar to what has occurred in other moratorium zones, like Adams Morgan and Georgetown. These two factors combined could result in bar owners selling off their licenses and moving out of the neighborhood, taking their business and popularity with them. Among the litany of individuals who have spoken out against the moratorium is District of Columbia Mayor Vince Gray, who has expressed concern over the well-being of the U Street and how the moratorium is likely to impede further development in the area.

At the Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) Board hearing held for the proposal on May 22nd, sentiments toward the issue appeared to be split as well.  On one hand, several board members including Mike Silverstein clearly demonstrated opposition to the moratorium by questioning the wisdom of restricting competition in the marketplace.  . On the other hand, the rest of the board, including ABC board chairwoman Ruthanne Miller, played devil’s advocate but fell short of rejecting outright the need for the moratorium.

In terms of support, the Shaw-Dupont Civic Association alleges to have amassed the signatures of  400 locals who purportedly back the moratorium.  Prior to the hearing, ABRA held community listening sessions to discuss the moratorium, where the majority of attendees opposed the ban.  There is also a Change.org online petition opposing the ban, which has approximately 1200 signatures.  At the hearing, the civic association requested that the ABC Board disregard the online petition because there is no way to verify whether the individual signatures were District of Columbia residents.

The ABC board has 90 days to issue a decision regarding the moratorium.

For more information about the alcohol moratorium, please contact Rosemarie Salguero at rsalguero@dbmlawgroup.com or Andre Barlow at abarlow@dbmlawgroup.com.

How do changes to the District of Columbia’s alcohol licensing laws affect your business?

On May 1, 2013, D.C. Law 19-310 the “Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012” (Act), which amended Title 25 of the D.C. Code will take effect on a permanent basis.  The Act was previously adopted on an emergency basis on January 14, 2013. Below, we have summarized the major changes to Title 25, according to license classes.

Retailer Class C/D Licensees:

On-premise Class C/D licensees are full service restaurants with food sales accounting for at least 45% of all gross sales receipt.

Relevant changes include the following:

  • Citizens associations who have met the requirements of § 25-601(3) and have registered with ABRA, shall be notified of new restaurant license applications at least 30 days before the Board’s receipt of the application;
  • Voluntary Agreements will now be called Settlement Agreements, and there are explicit provisions that are prohibited from appearing in these agreements.  Click here for a list;
  • Restaurants may purchase alcoholic beverages from Retailer’s Class A licensees (liquor stores) when District wholesalers are closed;
  • It is a now a primary tier violation for failure to comply with the 45% statutory food requirements, meaning penalties shall be no less than $1,000 for the first violation, $2,000 for the second violation within 2 years , and $4,000 for the third within 3 years.
  • Restaurants may now store books and records on the premise electronically, as long as they are easily accessible for inspection by ABRA investigators;
  • A protest hearing for a new license application must be within 75 days of the end of the protest period;
  • ABRA must maintain a noise complaint line and track noise complaints; and
  • Brew pubs may sell resealed containers of beer to consumers for off-premises consumption.

Retail Class B Licensees:

Off-premises Class B retailer licensees are primarily grocery stores.   A grocery store is defined as having its primary business purpose as the sale of a full range of fresh, canned, and frozen food items, and the sale of alcoholic beverages is incidental (sale of alcohol does not exceed 15% of its total volume of gross receipts on an annual basis).

Relevant changes include the following:

  • The law now permits the issuance of additional retailer’s class B licenses if the total number of retailer’s class B licenses is less than 300;
  • Full service grocery stores may sell resealed containers of beer (growlers) for off-premises consumption; and
  • Licensees may now also sell wines with an alcohol percentage of 15%.

Retail Class A Licensees:

Off-premise Class A licensees are mainly liquor stores.

Relevant changes include the following:

  • It is now a secondary tier violation to knowingly allow a patron to exit an on-premises establishment with an open container of alcohol; and
  • Liquor stores may now sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday.

The following provision applies to ALL licensees:

The Board may now fine a licensee up to $30,000 and suspend a license for 30 consecutive days for a 4th primary tier violation within 4 years and revoke the license after the 5th violation.

If you have any questions about the new changes, please contact Rosemarie Salguero at rsalguero@dbmlawgroup.com or Andre Barlow at abarlow@dbmlawgroup.com.

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.

Read more

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.

Three Tips Every Restaurant Owner Should Consider Before Applying for a D.C. Liquor License

There are a myriad of issues to consider when applying for a liquor license in the District of Columbia.  Below are three important, but, surprisingly, often overlooked issues that business owners should consider prior to applying for an alcohol license in the District.

1)      Check Zoning Regulations – Before signing any lease, a business owner needs to make sure the building is located in an area zoned for commercial use and alcohol sales.   In 2010, restaurateurs were caught off guard when the District of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (“DCRA”) announced that it would begin enforcing the 25% limit on the number of bars and restaurants allowed to operate in the Arts Overlay district of the 14th and U Streets NW area.  According to the DC Office of Zoning, The Uptown Arts-Mixed Use (“ARTS”) Overlay District was established to “encourage retail, entertainment and residential uses that require pedestrian activity; an increased presence and integration of the arts and related cultural and arts-related support uses; a design character and identity of the area by establishing physical design standards and adaptive reuse of older buildings in combination with new buildings; and increased public safety” – in other words, prevent the area from becoming populated exclusively by clubs and restaurants.  When the cap is reached, the DCRA Zoning Administrators will no longer approve occupancy permits for bars and restaurants.   Due to intense lobbying from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (“ANCs”) and business and community groups, the cap for street frontage for eating and drinking establishments was increased to 50%.   With new restaurants and bars opening every day in the area, new establishments need to check available store frontage/special zoning requirements before signing any lease agreement.

Read more