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Posts from the ‘Liquor License’ Category

Proposed DC Ban of Powdered Alcohol

A new bill that was introduced in June in the District of Columbia Council, proposes a number of adjustments to the District’s alcohol legislations.

The proposed law would make powdered alcohol illegal in the District of Columbia, following the trend in other states across the nation with similar laws. Should the bill become law, manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers in the District would be banned from selling, importing, and shipping the product. Retailers would be prohibited from refilling, tampering with, or diluting alcoholic beverages bottles or containers. ABRA licensees would be banned from removing or changing labels from alcohol bottles, facing still fines and penalties if found to be in violation.

Other proposals contained in the bill include allowing full-service grocery stores to sell growlers of wine, hard cider and mead, as well as allowing pub-crawl organizers to participate in the reimbursable detail subsidy program, with the purpose of improving security at such events.

The federal government approved the sale of powdered alcohol earlier this year; nonetheless, the sale of powdered alcohol remains subject to local regulations.

The bill is contingent upon the approval of the Council of the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser and a 30-day Congressional review period.

The copy of the proposal can be reviewed online in its entirety. As the bill moves through the legislative process, ABRA will inform license holders about the updates as they continue along the lines.

Alcohol Manufacturers are now Allowed to Apply to Operate Outdoor Patios

Under new legislation that took effect on Monday, July 27th, wineries, breweries, and distillers are now allowed to apply for permits to serve alcohol on outdoor patios.

In accordance with the legislation, alcohol manufacturers that conduct on-site sales and are owners of consumption permits can now apply through the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for side walk café and summer garden endorsements.

Alcohol manufacturers are allowed to operate permitted outdoor areas from 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., seven days a week. Applications for the outdoor endorsements can be found on ABRA’s website.

Attend ABRA’s ID Compliance Training: July 17, 18 and 19

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is hosting a special ID Compliance Training for ABC licensees and their staff from July 17-19. Training will review:

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

You will only need to attend one, two-hour training session. Training will be held:

Friday, July 17

  • 9-11 a.m.
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
  • 3-5 p.m.

Saturday, July 18

  • 9-11 a.m.
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
  • 3-5 p.m.

Sunday, July 19

  • 9-11 a.m. (Korean interpreter available)
  • 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Spanish interpreter available)
  • 3-5 p.m.

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

Training will be held at ABRA’s office:

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

Four ABC Restaurant Licenses Becoming Available in Georgetown

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Four alcoholic beverage licenses will be open for application this summer for restaurants in Georgetown. Applications can be submitted to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 25.

Restaurant licenses in Georgetown are limited due to a cap that exists on the number that can be issued in the neighborhood. Under the Georgetown Moratorium Zone regulations, a maximum of 68 restaurants are permitted to be licensed in the area. The soon-to-be-available licenses are the result of four license cancellations in Georgetown.

Applications for the licenses are available online but must be submitted in person. Any applicant must be the actual owner of the business. Businesses interested in applying can do so beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 25 at ABRA’s office:

  •  Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, 2000 14th St., NW, Suite 400 South, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20009

Completed license applications 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 that have questions can contact ABRA by emailing or calling (202) 442-4423. 

Message from District Of Columbia Government

Dear Licensee:

The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is notifying you of a new District law that limits alcoholic beverage advertisements in the windows of your establishment.

Effective, May 2, 2015, all advertisements relating to alcoholic beverages can only be displayed in the windows of a licensed establishment if the total area covered by the advertisements does not exceed 25 percent of the window space.

ABRA investigators will be enforcing the new law immediately; however, licensees will be granted a warning for a first-time offense of the new law.

The law, known as the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2014 (20-902), went into effect after the Congressional review period expired.  Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the bill on January 26, 2015.

If you have any questions, please contact ABRA at (202) 442-4423 or abra@dc.gov.

Sincerely,

Fred P. Moosally

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 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.

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.

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.

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.