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Dupont West Liquor License Limits Lifted for All ABC Categories Except Nightclubs

Accompanying images can be viewed in the September 2015 issue PDF

By P.L. Wolff

First adopted by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) in 1994 and amended several times, on August 12, 2015 the West Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone was, effectively, not further renewed by the Board when it ruled that only the prohibition on nightclub licenses and the existing restrictions and procedures regarding ABC-licensed establishments expanding into adjoining buildings would be continued for the next three years.

The Dupont Circle ANC’s exhaustive outreach earlier this year to the community in the form of a thoughtfully prepared questionnaire and three well-attended public forums followed by its detailed filing with the ABC Board in May clearly convinced the Board to rule in the ANC’s favor for lifting virtually all the restrictions that had limited the numbers of restaurants and other licensed establishments, including taverns.

As the Board’s order stated. It “gave great weight to the written recommendations of ANC 2B as required by[law. And,] . . . [a]fter evaluating all of the testimony and comments, the Board [found] that ANC 2B’s proposal is appropriate. Specifically, the Board agrees that maintaining the current cap on nightclub licenses is warranted to ensure that problems in the neighborhood are not exacerbated.”

If there was a single issue that required an extra degree of consideration it was that the ANC did not also include continuing the six-limit for tavern licenses. The reason for that decision appears to have been predicated on the fact that of the six allowed, only four are presently in play and there have been no applications filed for the remaining two. Nevertheless, the Board’s order makes clear that “[i]n removing the cap on tavern licenses, the Board makes clear that it will not tolerate tavern licensees who operate in such a manner that their operations create a nightclub atmosphere.”

Underlying the Board’s action was its recognition that, “[l]ike the ANC, [it] believes that if managed properly, a thriving and safe nightlife can act as an economic engine by attracting new businesses and restaurants, diversifying the range of cultural offerings, creating employment opportunities, and increasing tourism. To this end, the Board is in agreement with the ANC that a new direction for the West Dupont moratorium that allows for responsible growth is warranted.

Echoing this sentiment, Bill McLeod, Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets’ executive director, told The InTowner, “Retail is changing as more and more sales happen on line, and we are fully in the restaurant age. Lifting the moratorium will allow P Street to compete with other commercial areas.”