City Desk

If You Like Getting Drunk, It’s All Your Fault

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Bartender Kamal "Commy" Jahanbein at The Saloon

If you live in the District and like getting your drink on, it may be your fault that three D.C. establishments are in trouble.

Three faintly lit watering holes, Jo Jo Restaurant & Bar and The Saloon on U Street, and Bobby Lew's Saloon in Adams Morgan, are getting scrutinized by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board today because their customers don't order enough grub. The businesses failed to meet food sales of either $2,000 per occupant or 45% of gross annual receipts. That's not okay if you happen to have a restaurant-class license.

One can argue, of course, that it's D.C.'s liquor license tyrants that have really caused the problem. Tavern licenses in specific, but liquor licenses in general, are notoriously hard to get, because neighborhoods fear becoming pits of debauchery and all that. That means owners don't hesitate when it comes down to scoring a liquor license that may not be appropriate for their nightlife destination. Restaurant licenses are supposed to allow some alcohol sales alongside mostly food; the places in question may be more like bars than restaurants.

As conflicts over liquor licenses brew, it's becoming apparent that there's an inevitable culture clash coming in the District. Though issues about gentrification have taken center stage in the wake of an election that helped alert many to the obvious fact that race and class are ongoing problems in the District, that's not the conflict I mean. While everyone in the city seems to want safe streets, better schools, and honest government, ideas as to what sort of city will develop in the wake of those triumphs differ. While some seem to envision D.C. becoming another boozy, fun, and hip Manhattan—where you can stumble from bar to bar—others see it becoming another somnolent and affable Hartford, Conn. Barring some kind of east-west demarcation, one of these visions will have to win out.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • gonzo

    Yeah, when i think of rowdy booze halls, i think of the Saloon...seriously?

  • Lisa

    I LOVE the Saloon, wish the food were better. Like as good as the beer list and as interesting as the menu itself.

  • eric

    Seriously?! You're Photoshopping your photos? Who has ever seen Kamal smile?

  • deecee foodeee

    If they f*ck with the Saloon I will strike down upon them with furious anger - Kommie runs the best damn bar in town and that is bullsh*t. Ugh. Seriously, this, of all my time in DC, will make me go to an ABRA meeting and unleash holy hell.

  • Xtina

    I have a hard time believing that the Saloon hasn't racked up $2000 in food sales. My friends and I over the course of a year have probably ordered $2000 worth of food alone. Ever tried their ruben? Their spicy pistachios? Soooo goooood....

  • deecee foodeee

    Mango sucking!

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    time for commy to get a tavern license.

  • downtown rez

    While some seem to envision D.C. becoming another boozy, fun, and hip Manhattan—where you can stumble from bar to bar—others see it becoming another somnolent and affable Hartford, Conn. Barring some kind of east-west demarcation, one of these visions will have to win out.
    Why?
    It's not like all of New York is Manhattan, or all of DC is Gallery Place. It's not even like all of Adams Morgan is 18th st, or all of Dupont is Connecticut Ave, or all of Georgetown is M St.
    Seriously- the hartford v manhattan sorts of false dichotomies aren't on point, let alone helpful.

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  • Paul

    About 18 months ago I attended an ANC subcommittee meeting in which a liquor license applicant spoke on behalf of his request. The applicant attempted to feed many lies to the ANC. Several of the lies would have been obvious to anyone who had ever visited the property such as how he characterized the mix of uses on the block. Others were just bait and switch. For instance he applied in a way that would permit him to run a quasi-niteclub with no onsite kitchen. However he told the ANC he only wanted the entertainment endorsement to play live Indian heritage music (sitars) and to accept occasionally charitable donations. He claimed his application was less restrictive just to provide him flexibility to do occasional events. Given that in his past he was a nightclub promoter at MCCXXIII and other establishments the claims were clearly shenanigans.

    Our community association decided to protest to get a voluntary agreement. I contributed on the process. To me worse than the idea of a quasi-nightclub neighbor was that such a venue would be run by a person who began the application process with grand lies to the community. (And yes, they were confirmed to be lies, during the V/A negotiation he eventually conceded that he wanted to charge cover and DJ music every night of the week).

    Our community hasn't gone to protest with any of the other applicants in the immediate area. We've only asked that those other applicants limit outdoor patio hours next to residences to midnight.

  • EG

    I would be at the Saloon all the time eating their food, but first they need a chef. I mean, seriously, work on that menu. People are paying $7 for a hot dog right next door to you. Surely you can make some food revenue.

  • Pingback: D.C. Regulators Not Pleased With Pub Owner Whose Customers Don’t Buy Enough Food - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

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