DCRA Lightens Up on Record, Used Book, and Vintage Shops
The local stores that were busted last week for having the wrong class of business license got some decent-to-good news today: While record stores with some used inventory, used book stores, and vintage and antique shops do have to obtain a secondhand business license—as opposed to the less restrictive general business license—they'll have more than seven days to do it. And regulators at DCRA are taking a close look at the secondhand business license's more onerous requirements.
Last Wednesday, a Metropolitan Police Department detective and a Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs inspector visited Crooked Beat Records, Smash Records, Idle Time Books, Treasury, GoodWood, and Meeps, informing clerks and owners that they were in violation of municipal business regulations and that they faced steep fines if they did not comply within a week. According to several of the clerks and business owners, that message was delivered rather rudely. They "started using this farcical good cop/bad cop routine," Idle Time manager Adam Schaeffer told me last week. "It was rude and unusual and bizarre in the extreme."
Today, DCRA Director Nicholas Majett met with the owners of those businesses, a number of other Adams Morgan store owners, the executive director of the Adams Morgan BID, and a staffer from Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham's office.
Here's the upshot, according to DCRA Legislative Affairs Specialist Helder Gil:
- No fines will be issued to any of the affected businesses if they begin the license application process within 45 days of today (which would end on Monday, May 28).
- For those businesses that had the incorrect business license, we will credit the cost of that license to the cost of the secondhand dealer license they need to obtain.
- We will set up a date next week when any of the business owners can come to our Small Business Resource Center to discuss one-on-one with our licensing staff the specific license and regulatory requirements for a secondhand dealer business.
- Based on the discussion with the business owners about the requirements of the current regulations for secondhand dealers, our licensing staff will look into ways to simplify or eliminate outdated or overly burdensome requirements (the regulations are available here.
Those burdensome requirements? That secondhand businesses provide MPD's pawn unit with a list of used items added to their inventory every day; and that they undergo criminal background checks every two years.
According to Gil, Majett "was very concerned about the business owners’ feelings on how they were treated and it’s something we’re going to look into."
Update, 6:21 p.m. The co-owner of Meeps and Treasury, Cathy Chung, says she's pleased with how the meeting went and is happy her stores won't face a fine. She says Majett apologized on behalf of his agency for how the store owners were treated and said DCRA wants to be more receptive to the needs of small businesses. “[My business partner and I] felt that our voices were heard,” she says.
Still, Chung says, the businesses and the Adams Morgan BID are hoping to push for some sort of legislation that would amend the District's municipal regulations to include a new class of businesses license. "Obviously, we don’t feel that the current regulations apply to us," she says. "But we do feel our time was used wisely.”
Update, April 13, 5:24 p.m. I spoke with Chung less than two hours after the business owners' meeting with DCRA yesterday. She writes in with some additional thoughts:
While my partner and I were pleased with the progress made at the meeting, there's still a lot to be done to make sure businesses are relieved from this burdensome legislation. It's great that DCRA made a statement to the CP, But we have yet to receive a response from them directly. We do hope they hold true to their promise to be friendlier to small businesses but in no way do we feel all issues have been resolved.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery