Poll: Most Readers Say 5 People Not Enough to Protest Liquor Licenses

by Borderstan.com June 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,698 9 Comments

How many people should be allowed to protest a liquor license and force a Voluntary Agreement? (Luis Gomez Photos).

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

Last week we asked readers to take a poll on the extent to which neighbors should be able to control the liquor licenses of local businesses. The results are in, and 80% of you said, “No, it should be more than five people,” while 9% of survey respondents said that “Yes” five neighbors is enough to warrant the protest of a liquor license before the ABC Board. The Other option (with comments) was selected by 10% of respondents, with details below.

After all, it’s already been a heated summer between local establishments and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. (Read our recent posts on All Souls and Hank’s Oyster Bar. You can also review the current DC laws and regulations for liquor licensing in the city.)

Currently, just five residents living up to 600 feet away from a restaurant or bar with a liquor license can bring a case to the city’s ABC Board, and ask to negotiate a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.). These are used to set certain limitations on the business, often to limit hours of operations as well as outdoor seating. (See page 180 of the DC code.)

This contentious law enables some neighbors to fight to maintain what they consider the a certain quality of life. At the same time, the process can also obstruct local businesses — even if the overwhelming majority of surrounding residents approve or simply don’t mind.

So we asked readers, should just five residents have this power to bring cases to the city’s ABC Board, or should that number be increased? Interestingly, about 10% of respondents selected “Other” response for their answers. Here is a summary of what these respondents said. Most thought protests and V.A.’s should only be between businesses and governmental bodies:

  • Only ANCs (Advisory Neighborhood Commissions) and/or local government organizations should be able to bring a case to the ABC Board.
  • Business owners should enter into Voluntary Agreements (VAs) with a public entity, not private complaints, such as ANCs or the Metropolitan Police Department.
  • The number of people filing a complaint should be dependent on the population density of the neighborhood. For example, if only five people live in the vicinity of the license applicant/holder, then a complaint is warranted — but if only five people out of hundreds or thousands living within 600 feet of the business, then they should not be allowed to protest the license.

This past week the troubles surrounding All Souls dwindled, while the drama overwhelming Hank’s Oyster Bar continued. An online petition in favor of Hank’s was posted on June 18 and has already received about almost 1,700 signatures.

The petition calls on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director Fred Moosally, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and and DC Mayor Vincent Gray to change the law and end the ability of a small number of residents to hold up liquor licensing.

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