ABC Board Hearing on 14th and U Moratorium: Hints of a “No”?

by May 23, 2013 at 8:00 am 4 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]


14th and U Moratorium Meeting at ABRA. (David McAuley)

How much significance can you put into questions and remarks by government officials at a public hearing?

That’s the big question as DC’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board held its public hearing about the proposed 14th and U Liquor License Moratorium yesterday afternoon, May 22, at the stifling and sweaty Reeves Center (14th and U Streets NW).

The familiar forces repeated their arguments for and against the proposal, with moratorium petitioner Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance joined by its friends and supporters on one side, and representatives of the four Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) that had voted against the moratorium, and their supporters, on the other.

Members of the ABC Board posed questions and made statements to local residents testifying about the proposed moratorium. Like reporters observing Supreme Court Justices questioning lawyers about Obamacare, observers were left to wonder how much the Board members’ questions foreshadowed its future decision.

ABC Board chair Ruthanne Miller and Board member Mike Silverstein are representatives of Wards 3 and 2, respectively, on the seven-member board. Questions and statements made by these members indicated they were not immediately ready to approve a new moratorium. However, the two other attending members of the board — Donald Brooks (Ward 1) and Nick Alberti (Ward 6) — did not participate as actively in the discussions, giving no clue to their inclinations.

Skeptical on Non-liquor Business Crowd-Out

For example, several supporters of the moratorium said the proliferation of bars and restaurants in the U Street area was driving out other types of business. In reply, Miller said she knew the neighborhood had furniture stores, pharmacies, and many other types of businesses.

“Lots of your neighbors would love to have what you have,” Miller said.

Addressing the same point, Silverstein said, “There are going to be economic dislocations no matter what you do.”

ABC Board Improvements

During testimony, a moratorium advocate remarked ANC 2B/Dupont‘s anti-moratorium resolution had criticized the ABC Board’s administrative branch, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Agency, and called for greater transparency. This seemed an attempt to place moratorium advocates and the ABC Board on the same sides of the argument, arrayed against ANC 2B and moratorium opponents.

Miller had the resolution found and the relevant portions read.

At the end, she said, “Is that all? I’d like to see ways in which the ABC can be improved.”

Silverstein: Popular on Twitter

At another time, according to Twitter, Silverstein said the U Street neighborhood had said the moratorium “seems to come out of the factory of bad ideas”.

Another Twitter post noted that Silverstein had called U Street “a place the US President can take the President of France” for a chili dog. In the same breath, however, Silverstein also characterized U Street as a place where someone can throw up on your shoes, according to another Twitter post.

Last Chance for Public Comment

There is still time to submit written comments according to an ABC Board announcement:

“If you are unable to testify and wish to comment, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements must be submitted to the Office of the General Counsel, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, 2000 14th Street NW, Suite 400 South, Washington, D.C. 20009, no later than 4 pm on Friday, May 24, 2013.”

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