Housing Complex

Where Those U Street Booze Moratorium Rumblings Are Coming From

The approximate proposed moratorium zone.

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.

  • EdTheRed

    Yeah, that moratorium has worked out great in Cleveland Park, hasn't it? I mean, who *doesn't* love vacant storefronts? They really tie the neighborhood together, dude.

  • JM

    Actually, I might prefer to have vacant storefronts rather than drunks shouting up and down the street at 3am, and puking on my front steps.

    [Cue chorus of "then why did you move to a city...", "why don't you move to Rockville", blah blah]

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    Crazy insane NIMBYism gone wild to effectively ban any new restaurants from opening in such a large radius. Vacant storefronts do NOTHING for the city and quite frankly, as a longtime DC resident myself, I'd gladly live surrounded by bars and restaurants (well, I already do, and it's no big deal). Let's just hope the ABRA board doesn't act on this Marge Simpson-esque groups suggestions.

  • JS

    how long did you spend on that graphic?

  • Lydia DePillis

    @JS - SEVERAL minutes.

  • Archcritic

    Good for Joan & Co. The neighborhood needs balance, not increasingly more booze. Look what that did to Adams Morgan. Who the heck goes there anymore? Vacant storefronts aren't an issue on 14th Street - look at the New York Times.

  • eriktheviking

    My favorite thing about this brand of NIMBYism that seems to run rampant in SHAW is that these homeowners are complaining because their very expensive homes don't provide the lifestyle they want from them, however, their homes are very expensive because of the influx of bars and restaurants. (sorry for the run-on sentence. i'm tired).

    So thanks for making my property triple in value but get lost now.

  • Name

    The reason there are so many bars, er "restaurants" is that these businesses pay illegal immigrant wages and under report their profits and taxes. Simple as that and it's supported by Jim Graham. If the OTR did any basic audit of any of these businesses they owners would be in jail in 6 months.

    You can't put a clothing store on land where the rent is inflated by under taxed businesses. The market for rent is skewed by the cheating.

  • dcvoterboy

    Sadly, a moratorium on alcohol licenses does absolutely nothing to forward the goal of supporting "planned development".

    It only restricts alcohol licenses, that's all the ABC Board can rule on. Zoning, development, public safety, trash, parking...none of these issues can be addressed by the ABC Board or a moratorium.

  • NE John

    Joan Sterling arrived here yesterday. I say a moratorium on busybodies is in order.

  • http://www.bobcatarts.com Robert Gandy

    I'm new to the neighborhood, and I love it. So many choices of different places to eat and drink, all within safe walking distance home.

    In fact, the growing number of restaurants and bars, each with their own unique cultural flavor, is one of the main reasons why I wanted to move here. If I could afford to buy a house here, I would - for now I'll settle for renting.

    I say, bring me more bars and restaurants! Bring me more theaters and galleries! Bring with them the tax dollars the fund the city and keep my newly-adopted streets safe(ish).

    What's this cat have against the free market, anyway?

  • Jno

    I don't really have a problem with 14th St. as it is. So far the establishments that have opened have been of a pretty good quality and not the crap up in Adams Morgan. I just hope it stays that way.

  • Enough

    The moratorium isn't designed to solve problems; it's designed to keep those we already have from getting much worse. How many more bars is enough? And when the economy tanks and they all close, what are we left with but a shell of a neighborhood. Go Joan!

  • nasty ally cat

    First of all, anyone who uses the NIMBY is clearly a douche bag, second the neighborhood is losing retail at an alarming rate, and finally I'm tired of all the minority owned business being run out so we can have "nice places" read rich white places. I'm glad this is happening.

  • NE John

    who's using the nimby? any of douche bags using the nimby?

  • StrangeFruit

    I've lived in the U St area since birth and I have no more rights to impose my personal wants on the community than the 1997 pilgrim--Joan Sterling-- who just invaded one of DC's renowned hotspots known for its clubs, bars and dives.

  • https://dcsellout.wordpress.com/ Sellout

    In case anyone is curious, the 1,500 feet surrounding Ben's has seen a roughly 10% increase in crime year to year. DC as a whole has seen a 40% increase. Frankly still safer. Plus crowds mean higher police presence, higher property values, and more shopping options. If U Street had 1/3 of the stores/restaurants/bars it has now, does anyone think Trader Joe's would be opening there?

    @Lydia - thanks for the correction!

  • Here we go again..


    great optimism for the area, lets plan for the worst case scenario, however if you remember the last two recessions actually spurred the increase in ABC venues as that was one part of the economy that was not as adversely affected.

    nasty alley cat

    A moratorium does nothing to stop the loss of retail businesses, they are leaving for many reasons, mostly for the reasons that Mila just gave, where they don't have the same customer base and they never modified their business model. That is a recipe for failure and displacement for any retail business. However I did notice that Home Rule, one of the older retail businesses left just had their best February ever.

    A moratorium just makes the existing licenses more valuable and the operators less responsive to provide quality as the competition is limited.

    PS: Which minority businesses have been run out? I would bet your statement is rhetoric and not factual.

  • Enough

    NE John: Try looking at the comments.
    Here We Go: You're wrong. The DC city core did not experience a recession the last go around, and the previous one the area there were all but a few bars for years. A neighborhood needs day traffic as well as night/entertainment. One built around only one business is very vulnerable, and not very good to live in.

  • Here we go again..


    Day traffic is not created by the retail businesses they feed off of that daytime traffic that is generated by office and visitor foot traffic. The 1800 block of 14th survived those lean times because of Whitman Walker and the visitors they brought to the area. Residents have specific needs and the overall make up of the area continues to move towards an imbalance of residences vs. alternative customers.

    Some of the same folks behind this fiasco are the same ones that killed the hotel at 13th & U, the type of development that would provide the balance that you talk about. Instead of a moratorium on ABC licenses we need a retail attraction and retention plan so that we can identify and retain businesses that provide a diversity of use, because vacant buildings are much worse the revenue producing, job creating businesses.

    And no, you are very wrong. We did have a recession in the DC city core as all the construction in the city stopped and real estate prices dropped or plateaued. Yes, we did come out of it much quicker that anyplace else, but it most definitely occurred. While that downturn was occurring, we did see an increase in restaurant openings.

  • Phil

    None of that area is actually in Dupont Circle.

  • Jr

    Hooray for Joan! All those in favor of more bars and more drunks and more noise and more trash and more illegally parked cars and more public urination are those who scream on the sidewalks at 3 am and don't have any respect for those who never get a reprieve from the noise etc. Live next to an outdoor patio with music blasting at your closed windows all year long and tell me that I don't have a "say" as how my neighborhood should grow. There is no plan except to open more bars, keep them open longer, and destroy the quality of life for those who made investments here also - and made it fashionable to move here.

  • dcvoterboy

    @Jr: do you know that a moratorium would do pretty much nothing to address any of the issues you cite. A moratorium is not a plan at all. Its a false solution that only creates a new set of issues in a divisive and ineffective way.

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  • Here we go again..

    Let's also drop this call for hooray for Joan. Joan Sterling is not alone in moving this divisive process. She is out front talking to the press, but Ellwyn Ferris, Ramon Estrada, and the nimby's of Wallach Place are all deeply involved in this mess.

  • ACG

    The idea that these busybody's want to stop private enterprise from moving forward because of the "trash"? These new businesses will increase tax revenue, encourage further development, and allow the city to target and improve services to the area.

  • nasty ally cat

    Here we go again, your a Douche Bag. Your a douche bag because you label people who have different opinions than yours and disparage them.

    The vast majority of people who live in the area are in favor of the moratorium zone because they are sick of all the noise, trash and rats the endless number bars create.
    They have one in Georgetown, They have one in Addams-Morgan, why, because the RESIDENTS WANTED IT.

    ALL of the businesses that have left the area in the past ten years, with very few exceptions, have been minority owned.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    OK, it has to be said by someone. If you can't deal with the modest amount of activity and noise along the 14th Street corridor, then you really should move to a quieter, more residential neighborhood. People really need to get some perspective here. We live in the heart of the capital city of the United States! This isn't some sleepy provincial glade. Keeping things in perspective, when you compare the nightlife in DC to that in London, Paris, Madrid, and other great world capitals, it's like you can practically hear the crickets chirping here. you could easily triple or quadruple the number of bars and restaurants in the area and not come anywhere near the density of establishments in other great cities. I've lived in DC since 1996, and I say bring on the density, and bring on the nightlife! If you don't like the noise, do like I do and get double-pane windows, and a good white noise machine.

  • X

    And what percentage of businesses that have moved in are minority owned?

    And besides "stopping new bars" how will the moratorium fix the current issue of drunk people, it's been a few months but I assume there are still places to drink in Adams-Morgan. Moratoriums don't create demand for new spaces. They tighten supply and make entry even more expensive. Not every new restaurant that looks to serve alcohol is looking to turn into a mega-bar.

    Plus, people like to drink. If you enable more places to go and hang out across every neighborhood then you can actually lessen the pressure on a select few "party" neighborhoods.

  • U Street area resident

    I live right in this zone and I wish Joan and her NIMBY friends would STFU. I hate drunks as much as the next guy. In the last ten years I've had my share of "revelers" causing trouble near my house. But I'd rather raise the price of liquor licenses than ban them. A moratorium is a stupid policy. Use the higher prices as a tax to pay for increased police presence or whatever is needed to address the negative side effects of booze-serving institutions.

  • tasso

    If Adams-Morgan gets any more liquor licenses it will become another 14th Street.

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  • dcvoterboy

    @nasty ally cat: "vast majority of people who live in the area are in favor"? really? who? where?

    also, you do realize that an ABC license moratorium does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to address the issues of noise, trash and rats. That's why we've only seen 5 across all of DC and the Adams Morgan and Georgetown have been relaxed in recent years during the painstaking and divisive renewal process as tehy're simply not working.

    444 signatures of residents seems to say otherwise and they support taking a realistic approach to managing all of these issues while not making the unrealistic promise that a moratorium will "manage" anything, because it doesn't.

    Nobody is saying that the neighborhood doesn't have issues, they're just saying a moratorium is a really bad way to try to address them and manage them.

    Take a look at the comments >> http://www.change.org/petitions/no-abc-license-moratorium-for-greater-14th-u-street-midcity-neighborhoods

  • dcvoterboy

    Also, great article in the New York Times yesterday on the development on 14th Street: "In D.C., a Street’s Grit Gives Way to Glamour In Washington, 14th Street N.W. Attracts Upscale Developers - NYTimes.com http://nyti.ms/JW5vd1"

    A great review of all of the development (which is NOT just alcohol-driven) and where 14th street is in the development cycle that's been seen time and time again across the country and the city.

  • egk

    I live a block from U st. and there is only a single problem and it is only tangentially related to bars - its the cars. I wouldn't notice the bars at all (and don't for most of even a weekend night) except for the parking (and the going to and from parked cars). A stringently enforced resident parking permit (among other things) would do much more to solve the problem than any liquor licence moratorium. Want a quieter U st. neighborhood? Promote METRO service through the weekend night; promote offstreet parking.

  • Non e Mus

    I don't live in that area and don't frequent it either, so it's not like my life will be affected either way by a moratorium. But it is funny how, invariably, when people talk about bringing more "development" to a neighborhood, they only mean bringing more bars and restaurants. As a resident of Park View/Petworth, I'm happy to see new bars and restaurants opening in my 'hood because for years we've had only one or two. But the Yes! Organic, the upcoming remodeled Safeway, the new sandwich shops and coffee houses are as if not more important for my neighborhood's future vitality.

  • DC_LovesYou

    Moratoriums without a viable development plan to replace empty store fronts when they arise, and they will arise, is neighborhood suicide. Can you spell lower home values? But hey...Anacostia doesn't have a moratorium and would love to have this program. Maybe there's hope for old Good Hope....

  • Mike
  • Here we go again..

    Nasty Alley Cat,

    Thin skin? I haven't disparaged anyone, I have disparaged the plan for a moratorium and the waste of community resources it represents as an extremely divisive process. NIMBY, just like gentrifier has multiple meanings. Some projects and plans shouldn't move forward and NIMBY's play a role in stopping them from happening, just as gentrifiers bring new investment and resources to often underserved communities.

    It's when NIMBY's want to stop all change without an alternative and when gentrifiers are bent on displacement of existing residents and businesses that the negative aspects of the words come into play. Not my fault if you feel disparaged by the use of the word.

    As for your statement "ALL of the businesses that have left the area in the past ten years, with very few exceptions, have been minority owned." I again call BS. Sparky's, Pet Essentials, gomamago, Garden District, Nana, Dogs by Day, Ruff and Ready, Kuna, ACKC, and many many more are all gone from the area in the last ten years that were not minority owned and in many cases they are being replaced by minority owned businesses. Where's your data to support your statement?

    As for the moratoriums in Georgetown and Adams Morgan, they have them because that was the mechanism they had available then that they thought would help deal with all the issues you list. As Adams Morgan has demonstrated a moratorium does not address the issues of the community. They were also implemented at a time when the city was recently out of receivership and the city had less money to deal with issues and less experience with moratoriums.

    We now know they don't work and as DCVoterBoy and the online petition would seem to indicate, your vast majority of residents in favor of a moratorium is a fantasy as well.

  • tomdc

    I think that targeting an individual in an article by publishing her name and where she lives is really sleazy. Obviously more than one person feels the way this person does.

    I have no dog in this fight but it seems typical of the right-wing tactics CP is moving to.

  • nasty ally cat

    Here we go again.. you clearly don't know anything about the neighborhood. With the exception of Kuna, ALL of the business you mentioned were minority owed. The rest of your long winded BS is irrelevant. You clearly don't live here and you don't understand the problems.

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  • Here we go again…

    Nasty ally cat,

    We have a different definition of minority owned as I don't classify white men and women as a minority, which all these owners who I personally knew were:

    Sparky's - Jeff Burko
    Pet Essentials and Dogs By Day - Linda Welch
    gomamago! Jonathan Chudnoff
    Nana - Jackie Flanagan
    Garden District - Joe Cormack
    ACKC - Eric Nelson
    Ruff and Ready - Bill Troy

    You obviously just like making statements and can't back up your arguments!

  • nasty ally cat

    Here we go again... you know these aren't the people who owed these business. Your just making things up and posting them to further your flawed arguments. YOU DON'T LIVE HERE, STAY OUT OF OUR BUSINESS!

  • Here we go again…

    Nasty ally cat,

    If those are not the owners, please enlighten me with your wisdom and knowledge as to the true owners of those businesses. I'm sure they would like to know who you think owned those businesses as well, since I've now emailed several of them to tell them that Nasty Ally Cat says they didn't own their businesses

    So far you have not listed one fact in any of your posts. And writing "YOU DON'T LIVE HERE, STAY OUT OF OUR BUSINESS!" in big caps, doesn't change the fact that I do live in the area, it just shows you like making unfounded statements.