City Desk

Adams Morgan Liquor License Moratorium Lifted for Restaurants

D.C. alcohol regulators have lifted a moratorium restricting new liquor licenses for restaurants in Adams Morgan while extending for three years the current ban on new licenses for taverns and nightclubs. The Alcohol Beverage Control board announced the decision at a meeting this morning.

The liquor license moratorium expired on April 16, 2014, but the board voted on an emergency basis to keep it  in place for 120 more days so that it could hear the concerns of the community, which was divided: Some residents wanted the moratorium on all liquor licenses to remain intact, while the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission supported extending it for five years but lifting the moratorium for restaurants. Others said the moratorium had failed to curb the neighborhood's loud nightlife, so the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration should just ditch it all together.

Among the moratorium absolutists: the Kalorama Citizens Assocation, whose president, Denis James, said today that "the board has opened the door for more bad players in our neighborhood, more restaurants posing as nightclubs." James' group supported extending the moratorium for all establishments, which has been in effect in the neighborhood in some form since 2000, for five years.

ABC board chair Ruthanne Miller said today that the board recognizes problems remain with "peace, order, and quiet" in Adams Morgan, but opted to lift the moratorium on restaurants because the current ban may have "had some negative consequences on Adams Morgan such as economic stagnation and a deterrence on quality restaurants choosing to locate there."

Even with the ban lifted, licensing for restaurants won't be a free-for-all. The board ruled that it would continue to consider so-called entertainment endorsements individually. An entertainment endorsement allows establishments to have a DJ, live band, or charge a cover to get in as long as it meet the food sales requirements of its liquor licenses.

"The neighborhood can be assured that the board will scrutinize [entertainment endorsements] applications on a case by case basis," Miller said.

There are currently 58 restaurants in Adams Morgan with liquor licenses. Now others can apply for them.

Donburi, a Japanese restaurant that opened on 18th Street NW in November, does not currently have a liquor license, and says as soon as it gets one it will start serving beer.

"It would be good for us to have a new source of revenue," says Jake Landis, the beverage director at Donburi, whose job is contingent on the restaurant actually being able to serve drinks.

Photo by  Afagen via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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