June 04, 2010

U Street Booze Moratorium

At last night’s monthly meeting of ANC1B, Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) suggested that the neighborhood could “benefit from discussion” of a liquor license moratorium on U Street.  While the U Street corridor has experienced significant growth in the number of restaurants and bars over the past ten years, not everyone is happy with the revival.  The bar scene, in the midst of a dense neighborhood is bound to create conflict especially as the corridor becomes a regional destination for bar-goers.

In fact one of the attractive features of U Street is that its bars have not become as raucous and overcrowded as those in Adams-Morgan.  Part of the reason is that U Street attracts a different crowd (read: fewer college students) and includes more restaurants than actual bars.  Furthermore, U Street stretches 0.8 miles (from Ninth to Seventeenth Streets) compared to Adams-Morgan’s 0.4 mi (along Eighteenth Street from U Street to Columbia Road).  In reality the main bar strip of Adams-Morgan is packed into the 0.2 miles between Kalorama and Columbia Roads.  That’s only one-fourth the length of the U Street corridor.

We know Adams-Morgan and U Street is no Adams-Morgan.

A moratorium on U Street would freeze the supply of available bar and restaurant space without alleviating the demand.  In other words, a moratorium would eventually pack the existing venues.  Customers will be stuck with the same selection of venues and would suffer higher prices and larger crowds at each venue.

Furthermore, we argue that this issue is already being addressed through two other avenues.  First, the ANC is careful to review liquor licenses and doesn’t hesitate to strongarm restaurateurs and barkeeps into so-called “voluntary agreements” that stipulate a variety of restrictions.  These restrictions aim to maintain the livability triumvirate of “peace, order, and quiet” so that neighbors can sleep without a cacophony of throbbing music, boisterous drunks, and gun shots.  The process is not perfect, but neighbors are legally entitled to input and negotiation.

Second, the liquor issue is already being addressed by proxy of the zoning code.  As we reported before, no more than 25% (soon to be raised to 50%) of street frontage along Fourteenth Street and U Street within the Uptown Arts Overlay zone can be devoted to food establishments.  Since restaurants make much of their money by serving alcohol, the raising of the cap to 50%, an increase with significant, though not universal, community support, implies the acceptability of a commensurate increase in liquor licenses.

* * *

In other news, the ANC voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Class C restaurant liquor licenses for the following businesses:

The ANC voted to withdraw its protest and enter into a voluntary agreement with Mesobe Restaurant (1853 Seventh Street NW).  The commissioners voted to protest the renewal of Expo Restaurant and Nightclub (1928 Ninth Street NW) on account of noise and trash.  They aim to draft a voluntary agreement with Expo.  The commission decided to take no action on the renewal of licenses for Yegna (1920 Ninth Street NW) and Eatonville (2121 Fourteenth Street NW).

Categories: Local Businesses, Safety & Order
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5 Replies

  1. What happened with The Independent?

    Anonymous - June 4, 2010 @ 8:56 am
  2. The ANC and the Independent have reached a voluntary agreement. It’s coming!

    Eric Fidler - June 4, 2010 @ 9:01 am
  3. Excellent! I’m so excited!! :) Have you heard anything about a new coffee shop coming to the corner of 6th and Florida?

    Anonymous - June 4, 2010 @ 12:16 pm
  4. Can you think of another way to keep the crowds different?

    DG - June 15, 2010 @ 4:46 pm
  5. Thank you for posting this discussion. I agree with your assessment of the effects of a moratorium (look at Adams Morgan and Georgetown for examples) and was surprised to hear the Councilmember bring this up and cite Adams Morgan as an example of how it has worked when he spoke at our meeting earlier this month.

    As a Commissioner, my responsibility is to evaluate each application and make the best recommendation for the community. There is nothing stopping us from protesting an application or a renewal, but a moratorium would tie the hands of this Commission and all those to come.

    The Chairman of ANC1B’s ABC Committee has added this topic to his meeting agenda for this week. I believe he supports a moratorium, although I’m not sure if he’s on the record with this.

    I hope those who are interested in this topic will attend and give feedback:

    ABC (Liquor Licenses) COMMITTEE – Commissioner Peter Raia (ANC 1B02), Chairperson

    The ABC Committee reviews and recommends action to the Commission on all issues affecting liquor, restaurant, retail and entertainment licenses. Members of the community are encouraged to join and participate in the work of this committee. For more information, contact Commissioner Raia at peter.raia@me.com or call 202-491-2197.

    The ABC Committee meets every other month. The next Committee meeting is June 24, 2010 at 7:00 PM at the Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street N.W. The meeting agenda includes:

    Presentations from American Ice Company: new tavern license located on at 917 V street N.W.
    Presentation From Bella: new restaurant license located 900 Florida Avenue N.W.
    Discussion of a possible liquor license moratorium
    Continue developing “community standards” as time permits.

    Brianne - June 22, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

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