U Street NW Liquor License Moratorium Rejected
Looks like the bar and restaurant explosion in the 14th and U streets NW area won't be slowing down anytime soon.The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted unanimously this afternoon against a proposed liquor license moratorium that would have capped the number of alcohol-serving establishments within a circular 1,800-square-foot area. The proposed moratorium is the second ever to fail in D.C.
"U Street has blossomed with new businesses we need to continue the rejuvenation," said ABC board member Mike Silverstein.
The moratorium was proposed by a neighborhood group called the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance, which had hoped a moratorium might curb parking, noise, and rat problems as well as encourage more retail diversity. But the group was met by fierce opposition by other neighbors and business owners who argued that a moratorium would kill the neighborhood's vibrancy and growth.
The U Street, Shaw, Logan Circle, and Dupont Advisory Neighborhood Commissions all voted against the moratorium. Even Mayor Vince Gray said he opposed it.
"This is not a popularity contest," Silverstein said. "But we can neither ignore the welfare of the residents nor the will of the public."
Silverstein said that in the mid-1990s, the U Street area was in a "deep sleep," as many business remained closed decades after the 1968 riots and because of the U Street Metro station construction. "Some people who live here who moved in before or just after the Metro construction see that deep sleep as the benchmark for peace, order, and quiet. And this board member does not."
Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance president Joan Sterling took issue with that assessment after the meeting. "That's clearly not true," she told Y&H. "We've all been here through a lot of the revitalization, which we supported. But at some point, there has to be a balance."
Sterling says she was not surprised by the board's decision. "It wouldn't surprise me that there's been political pressure on this as an issue," she said, mentioning the mayor's statement.
While the liquor board acknowledged that some neighbors experience disruptions to peace, order, and quiet, it believed other tools exist to address the concerns raised in the moratorium petition. One of those tools is the ability for neighborhood groups to protest an establishment's liquor license in order to work out a settlement agreement that dictates things like hours and patio seating. Sterling says her group will continue to protest liquor licenses in the area.
"They've clearly said that's our only option," Sterling says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery