Where Those U Street Booze Moratorium Rumblings Are Coming From
You may have heard that people are mobilizing against a potential future hard cap on liquor licenses in the U Street area. You may even know that such ideas have been floated before in these parts. Nowhere, however, did anyone talk about who was pushing it this time around.
Well, I found them. Joan Sterling, a public relations professional who's lived at 13th and S Streets NW since 1997, is forming a new group called the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance that will cover an area between 15th and 12th Street, from S* to U Street. As its first action, the group will propose a five-year moratorium on new restaurant, tavern, and nightclub liquor licenses that would cover a circle with a radius of 1,800 feet in all directions from Ben's Next Door—an area that Sterling says has a total of 107 licenses, with another 11 on the way (it wouldn't apply to grocery stores, so don't worry, you could still get three-buck chuck at the incoming Trader Joe's).
"A lot of us have lived around here for a long time, and while we welcome development, we would welcome more planned development," Sterling says, citing increased crime, noise, and trash as reasons for cutting off the booze. And why the new alliance? "A number of us belong to some of the other groups, but none of them are really residents groups...sort of like everything, businesses can out-resource individuals." (It's worth noting, however, that some bar owners wouldn't mind seeing a cap, since it increases the value of their own licenses).
Of course, there are better ways to manage late-night revelry than the hammer of a moratorium. But the fact that the District hasn't really tried them in a dedicated way makes Sterling skeptical they can work at all. "Have you seen that implemented anywhere in the District?" she asks. "It sounds nice to say there's lots of best practices, but if you look at how the city enforces those practices, you find out how limited it is."
At the moment, the baby group has just floated the idea past Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B's alcohol licensing committee, and is in the process of getting on agendas of other organizations, while preparing to submit a petition to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Ultimately, it would have to be approved by the ABRA board, which could write in exceptions and caveats. If it gets that far, I'm sure we'll talk a whole lot more about it.
* CORRECTION, 5:42 p.m. - S Street, not F Street—quite similar-sounding letters.