by December 4, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,052 0

From Tom Hay and Rachel Nania. Email Hay at Tom[AT] and follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT] 


Alcohol Reform. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The DC Council will vote this week, possibly today, on a controversial bill addressing liquor licensing for local businesses and residents’ roles in the process.

Currently, there is no distance requirement for protesting a liquor license, meaning that a resident in Cleveland Park could protest a license application for a restaurant near Logan Circle.

The new bill would significantly change the current regulations by limiting protests of liquor licenses to those living within 400 feet of an establishment. If passed, the new bill would also allow for Voluntary Agreements (VA) negotiated by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) to override agreements made by a group of residents.

The Current Newspaper reports that there are 43 provisions in the omnibus bill, which was constructed by a group of representatives from the alcohol industry, businesses and neighborhood groups, as well as a group focusing on noise issues. This group that provided input on the bill includes representatives from wards 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8, and Jim Graham worked as the sponsor on the bill.

A newly-formed group called the Alcohol Sanity Coalition DC, founded by Dupont Circle resident Abigail Nichols, is fighting several amendments proposed in Graham’s bill. In a November press release, the group raised concerns about a provision that would limit any resident protest if a VA were negotiated by the ANC. The group is also targeting provisions related to noise complaints and fines.

In addition to leading the Coalition, Nichols is seeking election to the ANC Commissioner seat in Single Member District 2B-05, a position now held by Commissioner Victor Wexler who withdrew from the race shortly before election day. Wexler’s name appeared on the ballot and he received over 80 percent of the votes in his District.

The DC hospitality industry has countered with its own assessment of the amendments. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) issued a plea to push for changes to reduce the regulatory burden imposed by current regulations and curtail the power of arbitrary groups to limit operations.

The RAMW release includes a quote from Hank’s Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds who has become the poster child for alcohol regulation gone wrong. Leeds’ effort to expand her Dupont Circle restaurant was well documented on Borderstan and citywide. Her expansion plans became a three-year regulatory and courtroom battle in which she ultimately prevailed.

Mark Lee, coordinator for DC Hospitality, published a guest column on PoPville, stating that “it’s time to end an out-of-balance licensing system that puts limits on dining, drinking and entertainment choices for the many by the few – slowing the city’s forward progress and hurting the local economy!”

D.C. Hospitality is also asking to supporters of the reform to “Tell D.C. Council + Mayor Gray to Reform Unfair Licensing Laws” on this online petition. Hank’s Oyster Bar and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) both issued statements calling for support of the proposed bill.

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[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “Hanks asks patrons to sign the reform to current DC liquor licensing regulations” on Storify</a>]

[<a href=”//” target=”_blank”>View the story “DC Hospitality solicits reform support” on Storify</a>]

by June 27, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,063 0

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT] You can follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

"DC bar"

Graham proposes changes to DC liquor laws, but what will be the final result? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Councilmember Jim Graham (D-ward 1) on Tuesday introduced legislation that proposes extensive changes to DC’s Alcoholic Beverage laws. The much anticipated bill includes 43 changes based on the recommendations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control task force that Graham has led since December 2011.

The changes to alcohol laws and regulations is always of particular interest to Borderstan residents since the major commercial corridors of  our neighborhood — U Street, 14th Street, P Street, 17th Street, 9th Street and Connecticut Avenue NW — are home to hundreds of restaurants, liquor stores, nightclubs and bars. (See DC Liquor Licenses by the Numbers: Ward 2, 40% and Ward 1, 16%.)

The sweeping legislation even replaces terms for certain body parts for establishments that offer nude performances. Noteworthy in the bill are some changes to procedures on protesting a license application, what may be included in a voluntary agreement (V.A.) and the establishment of a noise complaint hotline.

The sweeping legislation touches on nearly every aspect of alcohol control currently on the books, even replacing terms for certain body parts for establishments that offer nude performances. Noteworthy in the bill are some changes to procedures on protesting a license application, what may be included in a voluntary agreement (V.A.) and the establishment of a noise complaint hotline.

The proposed amendment to the current code section on who may protest a license application states “A group of no fewer than five (5) residents or property owners of the District residing or owning property within a 400 foot radius of the Applicant’s establishment.” Borderstan recently conducted a reader poll on the number of signatories required to protest a liquor license application (see Poll: Most Readers Say 5 People Not Enough to Protest Liquor Licenses).

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for is bill on Thursday, July 12 at 11 am in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.

The legislation also adds a new code subsection to address what may and may not be included in a V.A. Among the areas covered in the bill are entertainment, noise, litter, parking, hours of operation and occupancy. The bill further details what a V.A. may not include.

In that section are such items as restraint of trade, attendance at meetings and conflicts of interest. The V.A. is a facet of DC regulatory processes by which residents and community organizations may negotiate with a liquor license holder to set mandates that are not part of standard regulations.

Another new item in the proposed legislation is a noise “hotline” to handle resident complaints. In a press release, Graham said, “This legislation addresses the problem of spillover noise in neighborhoods that are adjacent to entertainment areas. The bill requires a nighttime complaint line and a response team at ABRA (Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration) that will be operational every night until one hour after the legal bar closing time”.

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by June 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,135 0

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

Last week the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) released a statement commending the D.C. Council for its approval of a partial extension of alcohol service hours at D.C. restaurants, bars and hotels. The measure, which will allow later alcohol service on holiday weekends (and a few other instances), will take effect this fall.


(Luis Gomez Photos)

In the winding road that led to this compromise, the RAMW consistently lobbied for more liberal bar service hours, arguing that easing these restrictions would generate revenue for the city and raise its global profile. Amidst a near-collapse of the initiative last month, RAMW and other hospitality industry interests flexed their muscle to get the proposal on the books.

So when you wake up especially disoriented on some future Sunday morning, you’ll know who to thank.

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by May 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,483 0

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

As we reported recently, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) has proposed a significant increase in the District’s alcohol excise tax. It was designed to replace revenue that would have been generated by the Mayor’s one-hour bar alcohol service extension, which Graham opposed. Both proposals aim to eliminate a $172 million projected budget deficit.

Alejandra Owens

Looks like there won't be an additional tax on drinks at DC watering holes. (Alejandra Owens)

But as of late last week it appeared that Graham’s proposal was dead in the water. This turn of events was largely thanks to some strategic undermining by the hospitality industry, and even the mayor, who made a public push for his original budget proposal.

Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) suggested implementing the mayor’s proposal temporarily and seeing whether it worked or not, saying the policy could be revisited if it proved to have the negative consequences some fear it would.

The Washington Blade‘s Mark Lee notes the near-universal support of gay bar owners for the extension of alcohol service hours. Hardly newsworthy.

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