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Posts from the ‘Liquor License’ Category

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.

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.

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 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 or Andre Barlow at

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 or Andre Barlow at

District of Columbia Alcohol License Renewals for Restaurants begin Feb/March 2013

Every three (3) years, alcohol licenses in the District of Columbia come up for renewal.  The renewal period begins in March of 2013 for CR/CX/DR/DX licenses, and September of 2013 for CT/CN/DT/DN licenses.

In order to renew a license,  all licensees must submit the following documents to the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA):

  • Certificate of Good Standing from DCRA – this form demonstrates that the licensee is properly registered with the District of Columbia and has submitted all of its 2 year reports;
  • Business Clean Hands Form from OTR – this form certifies that the licensee does not owe the District any outstanding taxes (sales & use taxes, unincorporated business tax, etc);
  • Individual Clean Hands Forms from OTR – this form certifies that the owners of the entity do not owe the District of Columbia any outstanding taxes; and
  • Annual License Fee – Please refer to the chart below to determine the license fee that applies to your particular license.

During the renewal period, all establishments (licensees) will be re-placarded, and the ANC Commissions as well as neighbors will have an opportunity to review the license.  Because all licensees will be placarded, it is a good time for you to consider requesting substantial changes to your license (i.e., increase hours or seating occupancy) or changes to your Voluntary Agreement, if you have one.

If your Voluntary Agreement has been in effect for at least 4 years, you may request that the ABRA board terminate the Voluntary Agreement.  To do so, however, you must first negotiate with your ANC to request this change.

Please let us know if you need any assistance with renewals or negotiations with you respective ANC for any changes to your Voluntary Agreement.

  Class       Type                   Capacity           Fee

CR-01    Restaurant          99 or fewer         $1,000

CR-02    Restaurant        100 to 199             $1,300

CR-03    Restaurant          200 to 499          $1,950

CR-04    Restaurant          500 or more       $2,600

CX         Multipurpose    facility                      $1,950

DR-01    Restaurant          99 or fewer         $600

DR-02    Restaurant          100 to 199           $780

DR-03    Restaurant          200 to 499          $1,170

DR-04    Restaurant          500 or more       $1,560

DX        Multipurpose    facility                       $650

Changes to the District’s Alcohol Laws Debated at D.C. Council Committee Hearing

During a five hour hearing by the D.C. Council Committee on Human Services, over 30 witnesses testified about the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012.  Chairman Jim Graham (Ward One) presided over the hearing and mediated between the concerns of local restaurant owners and neighborhood community leaders.

The amendments to the bill are a result of a taskforce, assembled by Chairman Graham, which met from December 2011 until April 2012, to help draft the legislation.  The taskforce consisted of 26 stakeholders including 14 Advisory Neighborhood Council (“ANC”) Commissioners, six alcohol licensees, two Business Improvement District (“BID”) representatives, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, and government officials.

Out of the 43 changes proposed by the taskforce and codified in the bill, the most controversial provisions relate to 1) standing requirements for a D.C. resident to protest an alcohol license; 2) the conditions that are permitted in Voluntary Agreements; and 3) the enforcement of noise complaints against licensees.

Standing Requirements to Protest a License:

Currently, D.C. Code § 25-601 lists the persons or entities that may protest a new alcohol license as 1) an abutting property owner to the establishment; 2) a group of five D.C. residents;  3) a property owner within 600 feet of the establishment; 3) a citizen’s association; and 4) affected ANCs.

The new regulation would require the group of five residents to live within 400 feet of the establishment.  During the hearings, it was established that 400 feet is the equivalent of one city block, which many of the neighborhood witnesses believed was too restrictive, although most conceded some geographical limitation is appropriate.

Voluntary Agreement Provisions:

The D.C. code does not enumerate what types of provisions a Voluntary Agreement may contain, but the new regulations provides greater clarity as to what types of restrictions or affirmative requirements may be imposed on the licensee regarding entertainment, noise, litter, parking, security, hours of operation, and occupancy.

Additionally, Section § 25-446 is to be amended to give Voluntary Agreements negotiated between ANCs and applicants precedent over Cooperative Agreements negotiated between residents and applicants.   Graham corrected a typo in the current bill, which states that once a Voluntary Agreement is signed between an ANC and the applicant, all other protests would be dismissed by the ABRA board.

The purpose of this provision is to reduce the number of duplicate voluntary agreements, unnecessary paperwork and extreme delays in the licensing process caused by duplicate protest groups.  It was included to give due respect to the opinions of the democratically elected representatives of the ANCs and grant them greater weight in the process.  However, Graham noted that the bill, as drafted, mischaracterized the process.  Protests by neighborhood associations would not be dismissed after a Voluntary Agreement with an ANC is signed, and any Cooperative Agreement signed prior to the Voluntary Agreement with the ANC would be incorporated into the final Board Order.

Enforcement of Noise Complaints:

Two solutions proposed by new regulations to help abate the noise issues between establishments and neighbors is to require ABRA to maintain a noise complaint line and track noise complaints and to require all mixed use buildings, constructed after January 1, 2013, to be built with a minimum sound transmission class rating.

Ernest D. Jarvis, President of the D.C. Building Industry Association testified against such a blanket provision for any new mixed use building, citing the economic burden placed on builders, and Nicholas Majett, Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), echoed Mr. Jarvis’ sentiment.  Chairman Graham agreed to work with Mr. Majett to include language that would be amenable to both builders and neighborhood residents.

Chairman Graham and the Committee will review all of the comments submitted by the witnesses.  A final version of this bill will likely not be presented to the full D.C. Council until Fall 2012, at the earliest.

If you have any questions about this pending legislation, please contact our offices.  To see the full video recording of the hearing, please click here.

Reform Hearing Set for July 12, 2012: Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012

The D.C. Council Committee on Human Services is hosting a hearing on July 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM for the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012 (“Omnibus”).  The bill, introduced by Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward One) and cosponsored by Jack Evans (Ward Two) is set to amend Title 25 of the D.C. Code, which pertains to alcoholic beverages.  The hearing will take place at Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (photo ID required).

The following are among some of the 43 changes proposed by Omnibus:

  • To create a new Wine Pub permit that allows for the manufacturing and the sale of wine to consumers;
  • To increase the wine alcohol percentage that can be sold by retailer’s class B licensees from 14% to 15%;
  • To allow retailer’s class C and D licensees to purchase from retailer’s class A licensees when District wholesalers are closed;
  • To require notice of placarded license applications to citizen associations registered with ABRA;
  • To require a group of five or more residents or property owners to be within a 400 foot radius to qualify for standing;
  • To require citizens associations to give notice to applicants and offer applicants an opportunity to address their voting body at a duly scheduled meeting;
  • To require citizen associations to give notice to applicants and offer applicants an opportunity to address their voting body at a duly scheduled meeting;
  • To make it a primary tier violation for failure to comply with the statutory food requirements;
  • To require that windows and doors of an establishment remain closed for a noise violation under D.C. Code  § 25 -725 to occur;
  • To make it a secondary tier violation to knowingly allow a patron to exit an on-premises establishment with an open container of alcohol;
  • To establish an affirmative defense to a violation of D.C. Code § 25-783(a) that the person was 21 years of age or older;
  • To allow the Board to fine a licensee $30,000 and suspend a license for 30 consecutive days for a fourth primary tier violation within four years.

The full bill can be found here.  A full recap of the hearing will be provided in a subsequent blog posting.

For more information please contact Rosemarie Salguero or Andre Barlow in our Hospitality Practice Group, at or (202) 589-1834.