Young and Hungry

Regulators Ponder Fate of Shaw’s Tavern, Lawyer Blames Booze Debacle on ‘Hiring Mistakes’

Shaw's Tavern owner Abbas Fathi appeared before the District's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Wednesday in a bid to save his $1 million investment. The barely 13-day-old bar and restaurant ran afoul of the city's booze regulators before it even opened and has been relegated to serving only food while its legal situation gets sorted out.

One neighbor showed up with a petition of some 500 signatures pleading with city officials to not "kill" the eatery. "Shaw Needs More Successful Restaurants," according to the online campaign.

Liquor regulators charge the restaurant with serving alcohol without the proper permits at not one, but two soft-opening events: the first, part of ANC 2C's  "safety walk," and the second, a fundraiser for WEAVE hosted by Broads of the Beltway.

Testifying before the ABC Board on Wednesday, one city inspector charged restaurant management with altering official city documents to make it look as if the eatery already had its license to serve booze. Two different wholesalers provided the venue with alcohol as a result. One of the wholesalers has since recalled the sold liquor and the bar's shelves are now empty.

Eater DC identified manager Steven May as the fall guy earlier this week, so no surprise, yesterday's hearing was not light on May.

An attorney for the tavern, Andrew Kline, did not contest the charges: "We have no serious factual disputes." He explained that the business is "dependent on employees" and attributed the entire mess to  "some hiring mistakes."

Owner Fathi said that he had given the manager May total autonomy over the operation—the pair had worked together for many years at Fathi's company Socrates Computers—and didn't realize anything was amiss until the city showed up to cite the place. According to the liquor inspector, owner Fathi was having a beer at the bar at the time of the citation and manager May had tried to play it off as an employee taste-test of suds for sale later on.

May is no longer managing and Fathi has put a new guy in charge: John Cochran, who also appeared at Wednesday's hearing. The new manager had one condition: "That Steven May not be involved," he said.

A ruling by the ABC Board is expected within the next 90 days.

Photo by Megan Arellano

  • Broads of the Beltway

    Broads of the Beltway is not a charity! We are a local DC blog. We were hosting a charity event for Women Empowered Against Violence (recently renamed Washington Empowered Against Violence) at our blog's official launch party that took place at Shaw's Tavern. Please correct this mistake in your article. None of the donations went to us.

  • Megan Arellano

    You're absolutely right and I updated the sentence to reflect that. My apologies!

  • Broads of the Beltway

    Thank you so much for your quick response and correction. Greatly appreciated!

  • Shaw

    I hope they allow Shaw's to open. We really, really do need this place.

  • m

    Wow, altering documents, that's a bit more than a misunderstanding. Although, looking at this groups past history in Bloomingdale w/ accusing the community of delaying the firehouse when they hadn't yet applied for a license, is anyone surprised?

  • JohnDC

    Even a 90 day wait may spell doom. Ugh. I've been there twice and love the food

  • Devoe

    Not to pile on Mr. May, but was he not also the manager of the Engine Company 12 development on North Cap.?

  • Appointed

    Mike Silverstein, from Ward2/Dupont on the ABRA Board, should be more sensitive to the bigger picture regarding his distant neighbors in Shaw: A violation of licensing agreements is serious, but the long term effect of delaying this is that we won't have another nice neighborhood eatery in Shaw which would provide great food by Chef Cochran, a gathering place for locals (like the many they have on 8th Street/Barracks Row in SE, safer streets and a more lively neighborhood. The old GM is gone, the owner acknowledges fault, new responsible management has been put in place. Let's move on.

  • ShawGuy – neighbor

    Did they make a mistake, yes. Was it egregious, not in my opinion unless there is truth to the document altering claim.

    As others have said, this business is much needed in this particular area. I hope ABRA can get over themselves and see the bigger picture here.

  • Dubster

    The same fools in Shaw who want an exception made for this bar are the first ones out of the gate to SHUT DOWN violators for every other infraction imaginable.

    Can't have it both ways, Mr. CCCA Prez.

  • CCCA Prez

    Dubious Mr Dubster:

    What in the world are you referring to? What business in Shaw or anywhere else have I advocated to be shut down? I'm a foodie and a capitalist. I support local businesses which can hire local residents, make more products and services available to residents, and make communities more vibrant, liveable and walkable and safer for everyone. The more businesses we have in Shaw, the more competition will exist to drive up quality and drive down some prices for everyone -- like in my home town.

    I applaud all local businessmen and women who have worked hard to survive in Shaw's difficult wasteland of an economic environment and those who have taken a chance on getting in early on the renaissance that is surely coming once we have the right leadership in place.

  • Ombudsman

    The underlying issue here is that the ABC board has no interest in issuing a license to an incompetent owner, nor one that has flagrantly circumvented the law. Any ABC ownership application goes through a fairly detailed screening process. Likewise, ABRA sometimes revokes licenses when owners have committed actions which question their suitability to own a license. Owning a liquor license is a privilege, not an unalienable right, and not everyone fits the bill. Maybe Mr. Fathi should stick to computers.

    The world needs ditchdiggers too...

  • Janet

    Apparently, the world also needs negative pessimists who would prefer crack houses over redevelopment. Maybe it’s nothing more than a hidden agenda of black vs. white or a grass roots movement against gentrification. Either way Ombudsman the masses have spoken. Whether or not you actually live in the neighborhood and own up to anything more than an anonymous reputation for playing an extreme devil’s advocate or not remains to be seen. But the truth of the matter is over 520 people signed a petition to keep Shaw’s Tavern open. City residents, ANC Members, and Politicians of all races have come to back the restaurant. I guess you enjoy being the lone rebel! Unfortunately you can’t even lay claim to being the lone voice of reason as what you continuously support is unreasonable. Enjoy your miserable life!

  • RulesisRules

    As someone who lives just a couple of blocks away I was very excited about the opening of Shaws Tavern. I went there the first week and brought my kids. To say the food was excellent would be an understatement. But the alleged things have done are pretty serious.

    We're essentially talking about fraud. If they were willing to dupe ABRA inspectors would they be willing to fudge food inspection and rodent type stuff to make sure they stay open? If we want the rule of law to apply to people drinking beer out of brown paper bags we definitely need it to apply to people drinking micro brews in swanky taverns.

    Having development for developments sake is a bad idea and Shaw is not an economic wasteland. If they can't open and they go out of business someone else will buy the restaurant and get a great deal on a finished space.

  • James Ward 2

    It seems the best thing that supporters of Shaw Tavern Can do is become faithful patrons of the restaurant once it's fully operating with or without alcohol. Shaw residents can be a force of change in their neighborhood if they "act" with their wallets and by word of mouth by continuously recommending the Tavern. Attacking ABRA or DC regulations is ad hominem logic, at best. Support the Tavern without disparaging DC regulations and regulators.

  • Rob W

    You can't forge. Pure and simple. I'd be surprised if they aren't shut down completely.

  • Kevin

    They should be shut down. That's what's fair.

    Sorry to the residents of Shaw (I live near Kingman Park), but rules is rules. If you really want more businesses and social opportunities, start pressing your ANC rep and Councilman more. They're the ones who can incite businesses to locate within your neighborhood.

    This guy's incompetent. It's admirable he acknowledges that and has made staff changes. But the regulators (and their penalties) exist for a very good reason, and there aren't any reasons for special treatment.

  • Sebastian H

    "If you really want more businesses and social opportunities, start pressing your ANC rep and Councilman more. They're the ones who can incite businesses to locate within your neighborhood."

    Wow. Just, wow. Kevin wants to shut down a business that people want over hyper-regulationary garbage and he additionally imagines that the Councilman will put a better business in there. That's amazing. How has that worked so far?

  • Tyro

    I suspect that "Ombudsman" is actually Barrie Daneker, now-defeated ANC5C commissioner known for his irrational tirades against the Big Bear Cafe.

  • DCCommish

    Oh please the ABRA board is crazy. They don't follow their own damn rules. Frankly I wish Jeff Coudriet was still alive so I could help batter down the hatches to ABRA. They let anyone open in about any location. Trust me Big Bear did the same thing as Shaw Tavern did and nothing for them! WTF! Give the guy is license and shut the hell up! It's sad that this guy in a commerical zone with a big investment and no connections or payoffs to ABRA got bagged. It smells like a real set up to me!

  • Janet

    Well I just finished reading the 234 page transcription of the Shaw's Tavern ABRA hearing, to say it is slack on evidence is an EXTREME understatement. The investigator says that Shaw's Tavern submitted a document with their license number on it that had their protest hearing information whited out, this means redacted, not forged! Which is a far stretch from submitting false documents. The investigator is even asked several times under oath; “would any alcohol distributor believe this is a license?”, he says NO every time. He is even asked; “does it even resemble a license, or would any reasonable distributor believe it is a license?” he says NO every time. So basically a private building owner had a private party and bought alcohol from the wrong place. Sounds like the distributors should be investigated for not telling Shaw’s the rules. Or were they too greedy for a sale that they didn’t care until a investigator came snooping around?

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