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.
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In other news, the ANC voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Class C restaurant liquor licenses for the following businesses:
- Shashemene Ethiopian Restaurant – 1909 Ninth Street NW
- Ambassador Restaurant – 1907 Ninth Street NW
- Zula Restaurant – 1933 Ninth Street NW
- Sala Thai – 1301 U Street NW
- Vinoteca – 1940 Eleventh Street NW
- Red Lounge – 2013 Fourteenth Street NW
- Gori Café – 1119 V Street NW
- La Carbonara – 1926 Ninth Street NW
- El Sol de America – 1930 Ninth Street NW
- Salina Restaurant – 1936 Ninth Street NW
- Chix – 2019 Eleventh Street NW
- Masa14 – 1825 Fourteenth Street NW (rooftop license modifications are a separate matter)
- Source – 1835 Fourteenth Street NW
- Prince Hall Freemason & Eastern Star Charitable Foundation – 1000 U Street NW
- Islander Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge – 1201 U Street NW
- The Saloon – 1205-1207 U Street NW
- Ulah Bistro – 1214 U Street NW
- Lincoln Theater – 1215 U Street NW
- Café Nema-Momo’s – 1334 U Street NW
- Dynasty Ethiopian Restaurant – 2210 Fourteenth Street NW
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).