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A Liquor License Moratorium for 14th and U Corridor?


Click for a larger image: The proposed 14th and U liquor license moratorium zone.

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at tom[AT]borderstan.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

Two citizen groups have filed a petition with the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to establish a liquor license moratorium zone for the 14th and U Street NW corridor.

The Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and the Residential Action Coalition (RAC) request that a circular zone be established that extends 1,800 feet (about 1/3 of a mile) from 1211 U Street NW — the location of Ben’s Next Door — and adjacent to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant. (See New Citizens’ Organization Seeks Different Path for 14th U and Online Petition Opposing Liquor License Moratorium Draws Support.)

Borderstan was unable to find a website or Facebook page for RAC — only a listing for the organization with a T Street address. The signer for RAC on the petition letter was Kathryn A. Eckles while SDCA President Joan Sterling was the other signatory.

The proposed zone would be a circle, and extend as far as Clifton Street NW to the north, R Street to the south and have 8th and 15th streets as the east and west boundaries, respectively.

The zone includes blocks in Wards 1, 2 and 6 and portions of all four Borderstan area Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and four Metropolitan Police Service Areas (PSAs). The four ANCs impacted are 2B (Dupont Circle), 2F (Logan Circle), 1B (which includes U Street and Columbia Heights) and a small section of 6E (Shaw).

The filing by SDCA and RAC cites 107 liquor licences in the proposed zone, with another twelve in the regulatory pipeline or planning stages (see the full list submitted with the filing). The petitioners argue that the density of licenses in the area have “imposed extremely stressful conditions” on residents; specifically noise, crime and parking problems. The second factor is that growth of licenses in other areas of the city — where new businesses may be needed — has been stunted. SDCA unanimously voted to endorse a moratorium at their August 2012 meeting.

Once ABRA’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board determines that the petition meets all the criteria for consideration under DC Law, the Board will hold a public hearing to review the petition. In addition to public testimony for or against the petition, the Board will request comment from affected ANCs and Councilmembers, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Planning, among others. The DC Council would also have to approve the moratorium.

The ABC Board has several options after hearing testimony and comments. Grant or deny the request in its entirety. Grant in part by enlarging or decreasing the size of the zone, or limiting the moratorium to one class of liquor license. There are currently five liquor license moratorium zones within DC: Georgetown, Glover Park, Adams Morgan, Dupont West and Dupont East.

SDCA was founded in 2012 and includes blocks near the center of the moratorium zone. RAC was founded in 1981 and serves residents in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, which would include about three blocks at the southwestern edge of the proposed moratorium zone.

The filing of the moratorium petition by SDCA and RAC comes just days after Mayor Vincent Gray officially enacted major changes to laws and regulations pertaining to alcohol sales. Among the changes in the law is a provision that would dismiss any liquor license protest by a group of five or more residents if an applicant reaches an agreement with their ANC.

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Hay covers a variety of business related topics in the area plus stories on local government. A superb researcher, he can dig up most anything. When not working on a story you’ll find him enjoying the great restaurants, galleries and shops in Borderstan and D.C. Contact Hay at tom[AT]borderstan.com and follow him on Twitter @TomOnSwann.

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25 Responses to “A Liquor License Moratorium for 14th and U Corridor?”

  1. mid city guy says:

    Kay Eckles is a very longtime neighborhodd activist, and fairly well known in certain circles to be staunchly anti-development. RAC is a very very small group. Quite possibly a group of 1.


  2. Michael says:

    This post did it for me. I’ve had enough of the NIMBYs.

    If you want to join me in opposing these people, please visit http://www.inmybackyarddc.com

    A few angry people with a petition have held back DC for long enough.

    • Dan Wittels says:

      It’s interesting how when they wanted to move our homless shelter to your neighborhood and you guys raised hell and stopped it, no one from our neighborhood insulted you and told you had to take it. We stayed out of it. Why? Because that’s your neighborhood and it wasn’t any of our business.

      • Wrong says:

        Dan, your SDCA’s proposed moratorium goes well beyond “your” neighborhood and into areas where I’m quite certain you have never even stepped foot. Please try to make consistent arguments.

  3. DCUnionGuy says:

    What an amazingly stupid idea. Let’s distort the market and discourage further development. if these people need something better to do with their free time, maybe they could do some volunteer work around the area. I’m sure there are some kids who could use tutors….

    On a side note, I hate that bs like this has just killed the proper use of NIMBY. It used to be that NIMBY groups were fighting things like landfills and toxic waste incinerators and all sort of greed driven projects that harmed both the environment and people living there. Now (at least here in DC) it’s just used to describe small groups of arogant jackasses who think they know best for entire neighborhoods. *end rant*

  4. Logan Circler says:

    Reminds me of the tactics of that crank Marilyn Grove who bought the house at 17th and Q and then realized the block was noisy at night. She tore the neighborhood apart trying to change all that. Remember “counting bar stools”! Well Grove is long since twisting in one of Dante’s circles (but not before abandoning the site and moving to Middleburg – what is up with Middleburg – we just lost 2 complete hacks to M’burg so I hope the village is being careful or before they know it these two will try to take over, loot the place and then flee) anyhoo, Grove has gotten her wish which is evident if you walk, down the graveyard that is 17th street on a Friday night and remember how it once was.

    Thankfully, so far we have thwarted this kind of nonsense from taking root in Logan although it has been tried.

  5. Christopher Siddall says:

    We need a Business Improvement District (BID) and more Third District foot, Segway, and bike patrols on the U Street and 14th Street Corridors as growth continues.

    • Logan Circlite says:

      The best way to encourage area businesses to agree to form a BID and contribute the significant required fees to sustain it is to make clear that tiny angry neighborhood-poisoning anti-business groups like the so-called Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance are community outliers and treat them as such.

      Harming and estranging local small businesses takes away both their incentive and the financial wherewithal to meet the expense burden of sustaining a business-oriented entity such as a BID.

      Otherwise, give it a rest with the inappropriate “demand” that businesses form and operate one.

      • T Street Resident says:

        I don’t disagree with either Christopher or Logan Circlite. From what I know about BIDs, having one here might very well be all we need. Certainly makes more sense than throwing the baby out with the bath water through a draconian liquor license moratorium. But it’s difficult to persuade business to partner with us in a neighborhood where organizations such as the SDCA are so hostile towards them.

        I’ve now read the SDCA’s petition and offer several observations.

        First, they treat every establishment of any kind that sells liquor in the neighborhood as contributing to the so-called “problem.” Really? Is the existence of Cork, for example, contributing to increased crime, noise, and pizza boxes on our streets?

        Second, the petition points to isolated but high profile criminal acts –which always seem to involve the same night clubs — as evidence of an increase in crime in the entire neighborhood. But do actual statistics really show an actual increase in the crime rate in our neighborhood since redevelopment? I don’t doubt that, in terms of gross numbers, street crimes may have ticked up in recent years — but the resident population and number of vistitors have increased dramatically. Few fair minded people actually believe that our neighborhood is less safe and desirable now than it was before redevelopment. The answer to is shut down the offending clubs, not to shut down the entire neighborhood.

        Third, the suggestion that the moratorium is necessary so new bars and restaurants have an incentive to open in other neighborhoods that “may want and need them” is both disingenous and false. As a threshold point, it’s pretty clear that the SDCA doesn’t want bars and restaurants ANYWHERE. That aside, the proposed moratorium zone encompasses whole neighborhoods right HERE that still are sorely in need of redevelopment. The proposed zone goes well beyond 14th Street and U Street and includes block after block that are still playing catch-up. Moreover, it’s clear that nobody from the SDCA has tried to go out and eat in their neighborhood on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night — or, for that matter, brunch on Sunday. It’s often impossible to get a table, and the situation will get worse once the new apartments on 14 Street fill up with hundreds of additional local residents. If anything, we need more options, not fewer.

        Finally, I think it’s fair to note that many members of the SDCA, including some of its officers and board members, are getting substantial property tax breaks that newer residents such as myself are not. In fact, in some instances SDCA leaders are only paying half as much in property taxes for comparable homes as the rest of us. I strongly support property tax relief for low income residents in our neighborhood affected by the dramatic increase in the assessed values of their homes caused by redevelopment, but the leadership of SDCA is not comprised of low income residents. It’s pretty outrageous to see a small group of local residents who are perfectly capable of paying the same taxes as the rest of us paying a lot less while trying to impose their views on the rest of us on what our neighborhood should look like.

        • Opposed says:

          Other establishments contributing to the “problem” according to the petition:

          The Lincoln Theatre
          U Street Wine & Beer
          Best Market
          Source Theatre
          Yes! Market
          Whitelaw Market
          Cafe Collage
          Busboys & Poets


  6. T Street Resident says:

    I urge everyone who reads this to do some research on the so-called Shaw Dupont Citizen’s Alliance. Once you do, you will find that the group does NOT speak for Dupont, and it does NOT speak for Shaw. What it speaks for is a small group of residents of Wallach Place and neighboring streets, period. This group is opposed to any kind of development in the neighborhood, period, and they were formed because they cannot get the larger neighborhood associations, specifcally the U Street Neighborhood Association, to support their agenda. Period.

    The SDCA essentially consists of a handful of neighbors and long time friends who banded together and gave themselves a name in order in order to create a facade that they are larger than they are, and that the broader neighborhood shares its agenda. In fact, it does not.

    The proof? Dan Wittels is a member of their board of directors. He, too, resides on Wallach Place. Wittels ran for ANC rep last fall (when Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling decided not to seek reelection), and he ran on what was essentially the SDCA’s platform. Wittels came in LAST place in the election, out of four candidates, and got about as many votes in the neighborhood as Mitt Romney did. This confirms that the SDCA does not even have the support that it claims to have in ITS OWN BACKYARD.

    We cannot allow a group of zealots living on one or two streets to dictate policy to the entire neighborhood.

  7. Ben says:

    So the group putting this forward doesn’t even live within the boundaries the circle would cover (1524 T St, boundary per the above ends at 15th Street)? What a shocker.

  8. Lonnie Walker says:

    People wishing to mess with natural market growth for their individual gains. You forget te other added business this increase in agglomeration has created. Grocers, pharmacies, dry cleaners, coffee shops, etc. have also entered this booming market. Other areas may “need” more growth, but they present the correct market to garner more growth.

  9. Mark Rutstein says:

    Big mistake residents – really. Your neighborhood is changing, don’t put the breaks on. It took long enough. I operate a nightclub in a moratorium area. The street has become dry cleaners and pharmacies galore. Careful what you wish for.

  10. Eric says:

    This infuriates me. I live within the boundries of the proposed zone and yet I am not allowed to join the RDCA in order to have a say? I am a proud member of the U Street Neighborhood Association!

  11. ANC2B, 2F and 1B are working together to gather public input on this matter. The public and the Commissions will have the opportunity to weigh-in on the proposal before the ABC Board hears it. I would encourage all interested on both sides of the matter to stay connected with their ANCs about this issue. We look forward to hearing from all of those impacted so that we can come to the best possible resolution for the future of the neighborhood.

  12. freddy says:

    time to rally the troops against this bullshit!

  13. I just recently moved to this neighborhood from Chinatown and I’m wondering if there’s some way to counter-organize residents who’d like to see businesses open, people get jobs, the city get tax revenue, residents have more places to eat/drink, etc.?

  14. Logan Circlite says:

    What a way to start the post-holiday week . . . a baker’s dozen of longtime liquor license protestors pretend to speak for an entire neighborhood, again. Sheeeesh.

    We can see how well this crude community control has worked in Dupont — now this tiny minority wants to force it on a huge area covering multiple neighborhoods.

    Hope it’s stopped in its tracks — and soon. Before any development is scared away.


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