DC Liquor Licenses by the Numbers: Ward 2, 40% and Ward 1, 16%

by Borderstan.com May 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm 3,890 1 Comment


Ward 2 is home to 40% of all DC liquor licenses. One-third of all licenses are in four local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

The onerous process of obtaining a DC liquor license is a common complaint among business owners — although you might find more varied opinions among some residents. The process often involves reaching a formal Voluntary Agreement (VA) between a business, groups of residents, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and community organizations — which often set limitations on hours of operation, serving of alcohol on outdoor patio areas and more.

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.

Most of the Borderstan area is in Ward 2 (Dupont-Logan) while the remainder is around the U Street corridor in Ward 1. This explains why the agendas of ANCs 2B, 2F and 1B often include long lists of items related to liquor licenses.

Given the proximity of our neighborhoods to downtown DC, and the booming residential-commercial market in the area, the numbers really shouldn’t be surprising. The area has some of the city’s most vibrant commercial districts — Connecticut Avenue, 18th Street, 17th Street, 14th Street, U Street and 9th Street NW.

Licenses by Ward

Statistics from ABRA show how dominant our locales are in the ranks of DC’s watering holes: Ward 2 is home to 40% of all the city’s liquor licenses, followed by Ward 1 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/Dupont is 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.

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%


That means more than one-third of all DC ABC licenses are held by businesses in Borderstan. So why do I end up at the same two bars every weekend?

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