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DC Council Takes First Vote on Liquor Licensing Reform Bill

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

"liquor license"

On December 4, the DC Council took its first vote on overhauling the city’s liquor licensing laws. (Luis Gomez Photos)

On Tuesday the DC Council met to to take the first vote on a controversial bill addressing liquor licensing for local businesses, and residents’ roles in the process. Many issues were on the table regarding liquor licensing, including how long it takes to obtain a license and who can squash it.

The legislation came before the Council following work done by a large task force headed by Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). What did happen on Tuesday?

  • The Council passed a provision to get rid of any “Gang of 5″ license protest if a venue applying for a license reaches agreement with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) — essentially giving an ANC first standing in liquor license protests.
  • According to Tim Craig, reporter for The Washington Post, the council defeated Councilmember Cheh’s amendment,which strengthened the ability of five or more residents to protest a neighborhood liquor license. Graham, Orange, Barry, Graham Brown, Evans and Wells voted against the amendment. Alexander, Bowser, Cheh, McDuffie and Mendelson voted for it.
  • The requirement that “Gang of 5″ members protesting a liquor license application or renewal live within a 400-foot radius around an establishment was taken out of the bill. (See DC Liquor Board Reaffirms Hank’s Oyster Bar Decision and Poll: Most Readers Say 5 People Not Enough to Protest Liquor Licenses).
  • D.C. Hospitality reports that the Council also approved a measure that requires the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board to act on licensing applications in a quicker time frame — of great importance to businesses that are essentially waiting to open pending approval of a liquor license.
  • And as Dcist reports, sometime next year, liquor stores will be able to open for business on Sundays.

The final vote on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday, December 18.

Large Number of Licenses in Area

There are 1,586 liquor licenses of all types in DC, according to the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). The battles over liquor licenses in the Dupont, Logan and U Street neighborhoods are more easily put into perspective when you look at the numbers — what wards, ANCs and areas have the most liquor licenses. Statistics from ABRA show how dominant our locales are in the ranks of DC’s watering holes: Ward 2 (Dupont-Logan) is home to 40% of all the city’s liquor licenses, followed by Ward 1 (which includes most of the U Street corridor) with 16%. In third place is Ward 6 (Capitol Hill) with 15%. It’s important to point out that Ward 2 includes Georgetown, in addition to Dupont-Logan and areas south of Dupont Circle. Ward 1 also includes Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. Other DC Wards: Ward 3 has about 11% of all licenses; Ward 5 has 7%; Ward 4 has 6%; Ward 7 about 3%; and Ward 8 about 2.5% of all the city’s liquor licenses.

Licenses in Local ANCs

A look at number of licenses by Advisory Neighborhood Commission level is more revealing. ANC 2B/Dupontis home to 14.44% of all liquor licenses in the city (229) — keep in mind that the boundaries of ANC 2B extend well south of Dupont Circle and reach Pennsylvania Avenue at some points. (See DC Liquor Licenses by the Numbers: Ward 2, 40% and Ward 1, 16%.)

ANC 2F (Logan Circle and a big chunk of 14th Street NW) has 111 liquor licenses, about 7% of the city’s total. ANC 1B has 91 licenses, about 6% of all licenses in DC — 1B includes the U Street corridor and large swath of territory to the north plus Howard University. Together, these three ANCs are home to 431 of 1,586 licenses, about 27% of the city’s total. Throw in ANC 2C/Shaw and you have another 7% of all liquor licenses in DC. How many are in ANC 1C, home to Adams Morgan? That ANC has 84 licenses, about 5% of all the DC liquor licenses.

The exact numbers are as follows:

ANC # ABC Licenses % of All DC Licenses
ANC 1B (U Street corridor and Columbia Heights) 91 5.74%
ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) 229 14.44%
ANC 2F (Logan Circle) 113 7.12%
ANC 2C (Shaw) 111 7.00%

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  • One Photo A Day - Luis Gomez


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