[from July 2000 issue]


As we were preparing to go to press--in fact, we just scrapped our already written editorial in light of today's announcement--the ABC Board announced its decision on the Adams Morgan Liquor Moratorium Zone petition.

The proposal put forth by the ANC and three neighborhood civic associations (see, "Adams Morgan Groups Seek Liquor Moratorium; Cite Need for Retail 'Diversity'," InTowner, June 2000, page 1) called for a five-year moratorium on all new licenses within 1,800 feet of the intersection at 18th Street and Belmont Road, where the open parking lot is presently located.

The ABC Board in issuing its ruling, however, scaled back the plan to allow for only three years and a 1,400-foot limit. But, most significantly, the Board deviated from the residents' wish list by excluding from the moratorium, in addition to hotels, new establishments seeking beer and wine licenses only. This latter modification is, in our view, extremely noteworthy.

One of our principal objections over the years--which we have expressed in this space on more than one occasion--is that these moratorium arrangements, as they have previously been formulated, work to discourage the presence of attractive neighborhood restaurants and cafés where one might enjoy pleasant meals accompanied by beer and wines that would compliment those meals.

It has clearly been unfortunate that many respectable restaurants serving quality meals have not been able to offer a total dining experience to their patrons because of this hitherto "one-size-fits-all" approach that equated beer and wine with meals as no different than boozing it up on hard liquor at a tavern or participating in some obnoxious, sophomoric drunken "pub crawl" event. We even recall a conversation with an early proponent of the moratorium concept who, when we observed that a meal of coq au vin at a nice French bistro without some accompanying white wine would be rather pointless, responded with the thought that we could enjoy a glass of Vichy water rather than wine! Maybe the bistro might label the dish coq au eau?

So, it seems that for the first time in dealing with these moratorium issues, the ABC Board has taken into account views other than those of the liquor extremists. It gives us encouragement to contemplate that we might be able to hope for the survival of some of our favorite beer and wine-denied cafés in existing moratorium zones elsewhere in the city.

We also applaud the Board's comments about the need to lower the decibel levels in these debates--although it wasn't stated quite this way, but the meaning was clear--and to diffuse the community tensions so often brought about by a handful of militants.

Board Chairman Woodson issued a statement in which he referred to these moratorium actions as "a beginning to a period of self-evaluation and prospective planning." We like that emphasis on "planning." It is something that proponents have seemingly in the past not wished to engage in.

Woodson also mentioned the desirability of "creating more congenial relations between commercial and residential interests." He stressed in his statement that citizens organizations, presumably including the advisory neighborhood commissions, need "to foster goodwill and effective communication" with their neighborhood business owners, concluding with the observation, "A community by any real definition includes both business and residential interests."

We couldn't agree more. For too long, these debates have always been "Us" (residents) against "Them" (businesses), often sneering at "Them" in the same fashion as they revile the "Evil Developers" (many of whom, we must agree, have probably earned their fate). But, for the most part, these neighborhood business establishments, the "Them," are really "Us"--they live in and around our neighborhoods just like the rest of us. It seems that maybe the ABC Board understands this, and that can only be for the good. There is a message here that should be heeded far beyond Adams Morgan.