by December 4, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,125 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 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,181 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 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,595 3 Comments

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

The Washington Blade‘s Mark Lee skewers Councilmemer Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) for his lack of support for Mayor Gray’s proposed extension of alcohol service and sales hours. Additionally, Lee faults Graham for proposing a hike in alcohol taxes, saying it would add to the already overburdened District hospitality industry.

"Borderstan""Borderstan Map" covers DC's Dupont, Logan and U Street neighborhoods.

Mayor Gray recently proposed allowing alcohol service and sales to be permitted one hour later. Graham proposed raising alcohol taxes as high as 10 cents per drink, an endeavor that would net an additional $34 million annually for the city.

Lee says Graham is out of step with the mayor and the people. Similarly, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington President Lynne Breaux called Graham’s failure “startling” and said the proposal’s failure was a “loss/loss” for the District.

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by March 27, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,398 0

"Borderstan" "Rammy's 2012"

A plethora of Borderstan-area restaurants picked up 2012 nominations from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at alejandra[AT] and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

Each year the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington names a group of outstanding restaurants, chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, pastry chefs and restaurant staff that have helped develop and advance the DC food scene. Not only are these folks outstanding at what they do, but they are also an integral part of our neighborhood. They help us make memories, create an ambience and environment where friends can gather, families can relax and so much more.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a neighborhood with not just so much wonderful food, but also with so many wonderful people who live and work to make it happen every day. Cheers to this year’s list of nominees for the awards — known as the RAMMYs — and good luck to all when the winners who will be announced this June. Last year four neighborhood restaurants took home RAMMYS in June (see Logan Circle Restaurants Take Home Some 2011 RAMMYs).

The following restaurants from Borderstan were nominated for a 2012 RAMMY:

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year

  • Birch & Barley

Casual Restaurant of the Year

  • Bar Pilar
  • C.F. Folks
  • Hank’s Oyster Bar and Lounge – DC

Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year

  • Bistrot Du Coin
  • Café Saint-Ex

New Restaurant of the Year

  • Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Rising Culinary Star of the Year

  • Justin Bittner – Bar Pilar

Wine Program of the Year 

  • Cork Wine Bar

Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year

  • Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene of the Year

  • Black Jack
  • Marvin

Restaurateur of the Year

  • Michael Babin – Neighborhood Restaurant Group
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by March 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,123 0

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

DC, food, trucks, Borderstan, Logan, Circle, Luis, Gomez, Photos

Fojol Brothers food truck. (Borderstan file photo)

In the ongoing saga of DC’s efforts to regulate its plethora of new food trucks, DCist reports that the City Council has begun marking up legislation requiring these mobile vendors to charge sales tax. (See Borderstan’s previous coverage on the issue, links at bottom of story.)

The bill, which was introduced by Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) last year, would make food trucks charge 10 percent sales tax, the same rate paid by regular, non-moving restaurants. This is a victory for brick-and-mortar restaurants, who have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as an unfair playing field. Currently, mobile vendors pay a flat annual tax.

“This is not a fair system, and the evolution of the mobile vendor market requires a modernization of our tax laws,” Evans stated in a release.

Washington Blade columnist Mark Lee wrote a piece on February 28 in support of the proposal: “Fairness for all businesses should begin with food trucks paying the same sales tax rate as the rest of their hospitality and food service colleagues. The D.C. Council should act to establish a level playing field by approving this legislation.”

Food truck vendors have largely voiced opposition to this new provision, a departure from their earlier support for DC’s proposed regulations on mobile food vendors. One food truck advocate (and vendor) pointed out that paying equal taxes should go with equal treatment. Food truck operators have complained of police harassment, among other obstacles traditional restaurants don’t have to face.

The bill appeals to many in the District because of the revenue it would generate. If passed, the bill would take effect this October.

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by January 23, 2012 at 10:17 am 1,782 0

DC food trucks, Borderstan, Logan Circle, Luis Gomez Photos

Food trucks are increasingly popular in downtown DC. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

The Examiner and DCist reported on Friday that Mayor Vincent Gray has announced intentions to revise D.C.’s street vending rules. Of note, his proposal would clarify guidelines for food trucks, whose popularity and ubiquity make them primed for regulation.

Gray’s proposal would allow food trucks to remain in legal parking spaces so long as the truck’s driver observes time limits and, of course, pays the meter. This rule does not include dessert vendors, who would be required to keep moving if they go 10 minutes without customers (this caveat is intended to prevent ice cream trucks from exploiting the new food truck rules).

Representatives of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) gave Gray’s proposals a lukewarm reception, re-iterating that the city’s approval process for food trucks is too quick and easy compared to the requirements for establishing a new restaurant. This disparity creates unfair competition for established restaurants, the RAMW claims.

In a statement, the Mayor said the new rules would be a triumph for D.C.’s consumers and potential business owners. The D.C. Council will ultimately have to approve the proposed changes.

“Street vending, food trucks and farmers’ markets are important components in increasing the District’s quality of life for residents, workers and visitors, and my new regulations are designed to strike a careful balance between encouraging business innovation and respecting our laws as well as brick-and-mortar businesses that have long played according to the rules,” said Mayor Gray. “These proposed regulations eliminate outdated requirements, make it easier for the smallest of entrepreneurs to set up a business here and expand the food options available to consumers.”


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