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Posts from the ‘Zoning’ Category

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

The exact geographic boundaries of the moratorium zone can be found here:

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.

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