Young and Hungry

Echoes of Shaw’s Tavern Fiasco at Engine Company 12

When Shaw's Tavern ran afoul of city liquor rules last year, resulting in the Florida Avenue eatery's abrupt closure, it prompted immediate speculation about the fate of Engine Company 12, the proposed three-floor restaurant and bar at the old firehouse on North Capitol Street and Quincy Place. That's because both businesses had the same proprietor: Abbas Fathi. The fact that city regulators ultimately deemed Fathi "unfit for licensure" at Shaw's seemed to foretell a similar doom for the firehouse project.

Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Fathi officially withdrew his liquor license application for Engine Company 12 earlier this week. His letter of withdrawal, dated Feb. 1, came the same day as a scheduled hearing before city liquor regulators. It turns out that Engine Company 12 was wrangling with some of the same issues as Shaw's.

According to documents obtained from the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, the North Capitol firehouse had hosted a boozy private party just five days after submitting its application for a liquor license–a permit, which, in that short period of time, it had not received. And still hasn't.

You'll recall that Shaw's Tavern had also gotten in trouble for pretty much the exact same thing. In Shaw's case, Fathi had blamed the unlicensed party gaffe on his manager. At Engine Company 12, ABRA documents show, he blamed it on the building's owner, construction executive Brian Brown:

"Mr. Fathi stated that he did not have any involvement in this event and that the owner of the building, Brian Brown, authorized the use of the building for this event by an outside group."

Brown, meanwhile, simply blamed ignorance:

"Mr. Brown stated that he did not believe that the establishment required an ABC license because the event was a private fundraiser....Investigator Parker advised Mr. Brown that an ABC license is required for events like the one he described."

ABRA documents also note that Fathi's lease with landlord Brown was contingent upon his approval for a liquor license. In other words: no license, no deal.

And so the old firehouse, a property with a history of failed restaurant deals already, waits for yet another operator to take a chance on the location.

If prospective restaurateurs didn't already learn a lesson from the Shaw's debacle, maybe Engine Company 12's woes will help drive home the point: if you don't have a license to sell alcohol, don't have alcohol on the premises. Period.

Photo by Lydia DePillis

  • r. u. kidding

    Future home of Full Yum, nail parlor and dry cleaner. All businesses the neighborhood will likely embrace.

  • Rob

    these cases seems more about the board's ego (i.e., "you broke OUR rules; we really do not care that there is overwhelming support in the community"), than anything else. Yes, there were violations that should have been punished, but a death sentence for the business? People get stabbed in places, and the Board doesn't revoke the license.

  • Alley Cat

    The board actually supported the Mood Lounge (at 1318 9th Street NW) and gave them back their alcohol license, after a double stabbing, serving alcohol to minors, marijuana smell in the premisses and numerous complains and police reports. This business is apparently harmless to the community, according to the Board. But they find the Shaw Tavern and Engine Company 12 REALLY DANGEROUS and therefore they don't give them an alcohol license. Wake up people, some are more equal than others in Washington DC.

  • Mario

    Frankly I don't want someone so irresponsible to open a business in my neighborhood. If he's clueless about mundane alcohol laws, what would he do if their were security threts, or, worse yet, food saftey?
    Keep Bloomingdale Residential!

  • Pingback: Salvaging the Engine Company 12 Project « Eckington

  • CuriousinBloomingdale

    I walked by this morning on the way to work and saw that the lights were on inside the building. It looks like someone was doing work in the interior. Does anyone know whether we will have a new restaurant concept there at some point? When? Who?

  • CuriousinBloomingdale

    Interestingly enough this blog entry (see blog link below) was removed but I found in the Google caches. I hadn't heard anything about the community actually having a say in this building's future but I look forward to hearing the outcome of this meeting. Does anyone have an update? Thanks!