(Updated at 10:50 a.m. on Aug. 31) D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board announced on Monday it had voted 6-0 to adopt proposed rules that would lift the liquor license moratorium in West Dupont for all businesses except nightclubs.
The rules heavily modify the current moratorium and extend it for a period of three years.
Though the original moratorium was due to expire on May 17, the board voted on May 13 to extend it for a period of 120 days, during which it would take testimony from members of the community.
West Dupont residents gathered to discuss lifting the moratorium during a public hearing on July 22.
ANC 2B Commissioner Daniel Warwick, 2B-02, called on the board during the hearing to lift the moratorium on new restaurant, bar and tavern licenses, but extend it for nightclubs. He argued on behalf of his commission that lifting the moratorium on nightclub licenses could be disruptive to the peace, order and quiet of the neighborhood.
Warwick also noted that the only way for new businesses to enter the neighborhood is to purchase existing licenses, which are not always available. Warwick added that his ANC was concerned that the moratorium created a secondary market for liquor licenses that would discourage art galleries, distilleries, breweries, wineries and multi-purpose facilities from opening.
Former ANC 2B Commissioner Karyn Siobhan Robinson testified that the moratorium, including the ban on nightclubs, should be lifted entirely. Though Robinson acknowledged that nightclubs could sometimes disturb the peace, she argued that market forces prevented such businesses from flourishing in the area. Furthermore, Robinson said that maintaining the moratorium artificially inflates rent and prices for retailers.
But some residents who testified at the July 22 hearing said they did not support lifting the moratorium wholesale.
One resident said that several local businesses pose problems relating to noise and litter, and that lifting the ban on new nightclubs and taverns would only make the problem worse.
Another resident, whose balcony overlooks an alleyway, testified that he has witnessed patrons of a West Dupont business using drugs, urinating and “fornicating.” That resident agreed that lifting the ban on new tavern licenses would only increase that kind of behavior.
Though the ABC Board wrote it was “sympathetic to [residents’] concerns about the social ills that accompany a vibrant nightlife,” the board added that neighbors should discuss any problems with taverns with their ANC and utilize the ABRA hotline and online complaint submission form.
“The Board makes clear that it will not tolerate tavern licensees who operate in such a manner that their operations create a nightclub atmosphere,” wrote regulators. “It
cautions all licensees to understand that West Dupont is a unique neighborhood. As such, the Board will give great scrutiny to any licensing request that profoundly changes the nature and character of the neighborhood.”
The board added in its decision:
The Board appreciates the balance that must be struck between the interests of the residents in the neighborhood, and the interests that promote a nightlife economy. The Board recognizes that a diverse, dynamic and safe dining and entertainment environment is part of the fabric of the District, and yet, nightlife activity needs to be carefully managed in order to reduce antisocial behavior, noise, public disturbance and other problems.
The Board applauds the ANC’s efforts to solicit the community members’ perspectives on positive steps to transform the West Dupont’s neighborhood and improve urban vibrancy. Like the ANC, the Board believes that if managed properly, a thriving and safe nightlife can act as an economic engine by attracting new businesses and restaurants, diversifying the range of cultural offerings, creating employment opportunities, and increasing tourism. To this end, the Board is in agreement with the ANC that a new direction for the West Dupont moratorium that allows for responsible growth is warranted.
Though the rules are effective immediately, they are still subject to a 30-day public comment window and must also receive final approval by the D.C. Council.
The proposal, which the ANC voted to approve in May, asks the ABC board not to extend its moratorium on new liquor licenses in the area. The proposal also asks that the board renew its moratorium on new nightclub liquor licenses in West Dupont Circle for another three years.
During the hearing, which occurs at 2000 14th Street NW next Wednesday at 10 a.m., locals will be able to share their thoughts on ending the moratorium.
Residents who want to comment at the hearing should contact ABRA General Counsel Martha Jenkins by 5 p.m. next Monday with their full name, title and organization, if applicable.
Public comment may be limited to five minutes in order to allow every person an opportunity to be heard. ABRA advises that those wanting to weigh in should bring nine copies of their testimony.
Spring Has Sprung!
Yesterday was the first day of spring, and this weekend certainly showed it. Hopefully you were able to catch some water ice for free at Rita’s at 18th Street and Florida Avenue to celebrate (I certainly got my fill of Wild Black Cherry). You’ll also have to start thinking about where you’re going to be happy houring when it gets really nice out in a few weeks, so TBD has some suggestions for rooftop bars and restaurants, several of which are in the Borderstan area.
Behind on Your Ark Project? D.C. Has Sandbags!
You know it’s got to be bad when D.C. starts giving away for free. The rainfall on already saturated soil has spurred concerns of flooding, the The Washington Post reports (and you walked/drove/biked through). The concern was strong enough to prompt D.C. to provide sandbags, up to five per household, free of charge. Need one? Check it out here.
Gray Retains Clinton Lawyer to Address Allegations
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has apparently grown tired of facing the rumors and speculation alone, and has retained the services of Robert Bennett, according to the The Washington Post. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Bennett is best known for representing President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. A dubious honor, but the pedigree seems to suggest Mayor Gray is taking this very seriously.
From Michelle Lancater
West Dupont Liquor Moratorium Reviewed, Changes Recommended
The notes put on Scribd indicate some interesting recommendations are going before ANC2B with regards to the West Dupont [liquor] Moratorium. These include a call to eliminate the cap on CR/DR licenses to create a new ‘Restaurant Row,’ as well as more guidance on voluntary agreements. They recommend more VA’s be sought with new businesses and favor closing hours before 1am on weeknights and before 3am on weekends. Kevin O’Connor, who represents part of that area on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B is heading up the panel; check out his site for some background. What do you think?