Poll Closes Sunday: Should Just 5 People Be Allowed to Protest a Liquor License?

by Borderstan.com June 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm 2,163 19 Comments

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

News of licensing agreements about local businesses and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has been rocking area websites and newsfeeds for more than a week. Hank’s Oyster Bar, a local restaurant just off the 17th Street corridor, was forced to shut down half of its outdoor patio on June 8 due to a pending review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents; two of the original six protestants filed the appeal. The hearing was held last Wednesday, but nothing has resulted (as of yet) from the battle between a handful of local residents and the local business.

Reader Poll: What’s your opinion? Should a minimum of five residents or property owners be allowed to file a protest against liquor license application that then goes before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board — or should that number be increased? Take our reader poll. We will share the results early next week.

"U Street NW"

How many residents should DC law require to protest a liquor license application? (Luis Gomez Photos)

That’s the law in DC: At present, a minimum of five residents or property owners (three if it is a liquor license moratorium zone) living up to 600 feet away from a restaurant or bar with a liquor license can file for a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with an establishment — for reference, a football field is 360 feet long.

Residents — as well as neighborhood associations and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions — can also protest a pending liquor license application, and then the establishment must reach an agreement with the group or groups. (Hank’s is located in the Dupont East Moratorium Zone.)

V.A.’s are often used to limit hours of operation or specify how  outdoor dining areas are used. There may also be other requirements that the bar or restaurant must agree to follow to obtain the liquor license. (See details below.)

Since the closure of half its patio at 1624 Q Street NW, Hank’s has procured the support of local businesses and organizations, including the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA). Furthermore, an online petition in favor of Hank’s was posted on June 18 and has already received about more than 1,200 signatures.

The petition, started by Mary Tucker, calls on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director, Fred Moosally; Ward 2 Council Member, Jack Evans; Councilmember and ABC Committee Chair, Jim Graham; and DC Mayor Vincent Gray to end the ability for a small number of residents to hold up liquor licensing.

DC Code Spells Out Protest Rules

If you want to dive into the weeds, Title 23, Chapter 16 of the DC Code stipulates the rules for filing a protest against a liquor license. The specifics on who can protest are in Title 25, Chapter 6:

§ 25-601. Standing to file protest against a license

The following persons may protest the issuance or renewal of a license, the approval of a substantial change in the nature of operation as determined by the Board under § 25-404, a new owner license renewal, or the transfer of a license to a new location:

(1) An abutting property owner;

(2) A group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest; provided, that in a moratorium zone established under § 25-351 (or in existence as of May 3, 2001), a group of no fewer than 3 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest;

(3) A citizens association incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia located within the affected area; provided, that the following conditions are met:

(A) Membership in the citizens association is open to all residents of the area represented by the association; and

(B) A resolution concerning the license application has been duly approved in accordance with the association’s articles of incorporation or bylaws at a duly called meeting, with notice of the meeting being given at least 10 days before the date of the meeting.

(4) An affected ANC;

(5) In the case of property owned by the District within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the Mayor;

(6) In the case of property owned by the United States within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the designated custodian of the property; or

(7) The Metropolitan Police Department District Commander, or his or her designee, in whose Police District the establishment resides.

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