To Arms Citizens!

Alright not arms but letter writing. I had discussed the Yes! Organic Market not being able to get a liquor license in a previous scuttlebutt post. Well, I’m now hearing that this may be a deal breaker for them. Remember there is supposed to be a Yes! Organic market coming to the corner of Georgia and Taylor. I truly believe that this will be a phenomenal addition to the community. So if they need a liquor license to be profitable, hell, let’s get them a liquor license. In the short term I suggest anyone who wants Yes! Organic market to come to the area to email our Council Member, Muriel Bowswer, your concerns: [email protected]

On happier scuttlebutt news I have received another tip from a very well placed source that the Ellwood Thompson Grocery store slated to come to DC USA is a done deal. So that makes two tips from very well placed sources. Very cool.

35 Comment

  • YAY for Ellwood Thompson! There are now so many grocery resources in the CH/MtP area! I love it!!!!

  • I emailed Bowser and got a response within one hour from her blackberry. She is asking the community for feedback on how to handle the moratorium. I would encourage people to email her your thoughts. See below:

    “There is a moratorium on establishing new class b licenses, even grocery stores, in Ward 4. Do you think I should change the law for the entire Ward? Thoughts? I will be floating the idea among our ANCs; this is a policy change affecting more than one store or neighborhood. I appreciate your continued feedback and will keep you posted with news as soon as possible. Muriel

  • +1 (I believe that’s how the youngsters indicate they support the previous opinion)! 😀

    Muriel.. well, I’ll email her about Yes! but would not hold my hopes too high.

  • I sent her a note. Is it me or does the council make distintions the negative impacts of liquor stores and beer and wine sales in grocerys? They cater to two completly different client basis.

  • If liquor is the “problem”, why not just limit liquor stores? I tell you. Making excuses for the failings in your community and scapegoating the issue does not make the issue go away. As long as alcohol is legal, it is going to affect many of the residents in the poorer wards. But that is no reason to have a blanket moratorium that stifles investment.
    Bowser and many of the others on the Council are idiots. They stay elected by catering and acting as the nanny to the lowest common denominator of residents.

    I pass by dozens of liquor stores daily. They don’t increase my desire to drink.

  • I had asked about this at the Brookland Yes! and they said it was definitely a deal breaker for them. It would be a huge loss for that store to not open because of the liquor license. I will write Bowser, but please keep us posted if there is anything else that can be done to help.

  • Can they put a moratorium on stores with xx amount of sales being derived from liquor? I know many places do this to classify restaurant/bar and your need for a full liquor license or just a beer/wine permit.

    So, there could be a moratorium on stores where 90% or more of sales come from liquor. That could easily weed out liquor stores but allow for grocery stores to carry wine/beer.

    I think true liquor stores would have a hard time getting past the 90% even if they are offered other items.

  • I would suggest also writing to Kwame Brown. He’s at-large and chair of the economic development committee. This SHOULD be right up his alley.

    [email protected] is the email address he publicizes, although I note that [email protected] should work (and frankly, I find it offensive that he’s rather use a gmail address than his official dc address.)

    For that matter, Carol Schwartz also sits on the economic development committee, and is an at-large member. She’s at [email protected]

  • I heard Muriel Bowser talk about this at the ANC meeting. The main problem is that the Ward 4 moratorium includes grocery stores whereas similar rules in other parts of the city exempt grocery stores from the rule. I think grocery stores should be exempted in Ward 4, and if there is a concern about a proliferation of corner grocery stores w/ liquor licenses, then the exemption could be for stores over a certain size, or as was suggested above, stores that receive most of their profit from groceries, not alcohol. That should allow Yes to get their license (and other future grocery stores!) but still address the concerns of people worried about too many corner liquor stores (plus we are talking about a beer & wine license here!).

  • Nate: pouring more liquor to the system certainly won’t make the problem get any better either. There is a clear correlation between supply, ease of access and price in alcohol consumption studies. Price is the main factor, but others do have an impact too.

    Wow, “Do you think I should change the law for the entire Ward?” Does Muriel really have the power to change laws by herself? Oh boy…

  • GforGood,

    If liquor is this much of a scourge, then why isn’t the city doing substantial to treat the citizens that have been ‘victimized’ by liquor?

    Pouring more liquor won’t make the problem get any better or worse. Blaming alcohol instead of getting to the root of the problem causes stores like Yes to not invest in Petworth.

  • I am not saying the blanket ban is a good idea. While getting to the root of the problem would obviously be good and preferable, the tips of the problem can also be addressed. Pooring more liquor to the system does make the problem worse. Again, that does not mean to say Yes! and others like it should not a licence. Its not that black and white.

  • Once again, I think we’ve got hammer syndrome. (You know, when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.)

    The council wants to do stuff. So they pass laws. Nevermind that we already HAVE perfectly good laws that cover these issues, those laws aren’t being enforced.

    So rather than doing the hard work of holding the feet of the executive branch to the fire, and insisting that existing laws be enforced, the council passes more laws.

    We HAD laws in place to deal with alcohol issues. It is illegal to sell to intoxicated people. It is illegal to drink in public. It is illegal to be drunk in public. It is illegal to sell to underage people. But those laws are not enforced, and rather than enforcing them, we just piled on another law – oh, we have a problem with too much ETOH out there on the street? Let’s block ALL new licenses!

  • Yep. The difference is that enforcing number of licences is so much easier than enforcing many of the other ones you mention.

  • I like the percentage of sales idea. And the good news is that the liquor stores on 14th are already upgrading what they carry, indicating that there market is going upscale.

  • I’ve thrown my hat into the ring as well with an email to Muriel Bowser. Hope this works!

  • They tried the “percentage” thing with tavern/restaurant licenses – the result was everyone just cooked their books to make it look like they were a ‘restaurant’ when in fact they were a ‘tavern’.

  • Don’t folks see a difference in the clinetell between nasty liquor stores that sell pints and singles and grocery stores that sell more expensive beers and wines. There is a big difference in who I see shopping the beer and wine ilses in Whole Foods, a Giant and DeVines. I don’t want to sound like a racist but isn’t this an issue of poor african american folks going to the payday loan store then buying a pint or a quart to get drunk on versus white hipsters and yuppies shoping for a 6 of their most favorite Belgian brew or a 750ml of Pinot Noir while they are buying their organic tofu? Denying a license to YES will not curtail either.

  • PoP, I think you should also share this discussion with Ms. Bowser, as there is clearly a strong feeling that the ban isn’t working as is, and that stores like Yes! should be able to come to our community. Frankly, I like good beer and wine, and it irks me to no end that my current choices of places to buy all have bulletproof plexiglass in front of the counter. What’s more, I could care less if the Yes! offers beer and wine (though that would be nice), but am incredibly excited about the possibility of a natural foods store near my home. So, basically, this issue is boiling down to the fact that people in the neighborhood won’t have access to healthy, organic vegetables and other healthy foods from a place selling beer and wine but can currently get beer and wine from every corner store selling cheetos and candy. From a simple public health equation, it’s pretty idiotic. From an economic development point of view, it’s suicidal.

  • i think steve is much closer to the root of the problem than anyone wants to admit, less they fall down the slippery slope of racism.

  • “I don’t want to sound like a racist” Sorry, too late. You don’t just sound like a racist, that IS a racist thing to say. The assumption that black=poor and white=hipster or yuppie is awfully racist. Poor white folk exist, you know, as do well off black folk. There are even hispanic people and asian people across the socio-economic spectrum! And native americans, and…

    The issue has nothing to do with race. The issue has everything to do with community and respect for your neighbors.

    Poor and rich alike should be able to purchase and consume any legal product they choose, as long as they do so in a legal manner. That is, if you are of age to purchase and consume alcohol, and can do so without being drunk in public, without littering, without. well, you get the idea, then you should be able to purchase and consume alcohol no matter what color, age, or economic class you represent.

    But again, rather than expecting people to follow existing law, rather than expecting current licenseholders to follow existing law, rather than expecting the police and the ABC to enforce existing law, the council chose to add another layer of law in the form of a license moratorium in Ward 4. And now we get to see the results of kneejerk law making.

  • Saying many of the folks drinking on the streets are black or latin is not racist – its just a fact. However, its probably an irrelevant fact. It has nothing to do with their race per se. At best/worst it could have something to do with the respective cultures, but most likely it has most to do with the socio-economic situation of those people.

  • Cultural/racial issues aside, would having beer and wine available at YES do anything to exacerbate that problem. My thought is no. In my limited obervations at Giant and Whole Foods, I have not seen that group purchasing singles to brownbag it on the streets. Would it be likely in the YES Organic Market. If the answer is, as I suspect, no, then I think Councilwoman Bowser should have her answer and she should push for the grocery exception. I guess to argue another angle is this would establish precedent and enable those bodega’s and corner markets to sell beer and wine. I would suspect that those are likely places where folks would shop to grab a pounder or a bottle of Boones. So perhaps YES, in an of itself would not contribute, but it might lead to other licenses being issued that would.

  • yeah, exactly…who cares what color you are, its all economics, and i would venture to guess that the people buying their organic wine at the yes market will NOT be the drunks on the corner that you have to worry about in a ward with free flowing liquor..

  • Anon 12:13 –

    “Saying many of the folks drinking on the streets are black or latin is not racist – its just a fact.”

    Were that all he had said, you would be correct. But he actually said: “…isn’t this an issue of poor african american folks going to the payday loan store then buying a pint or a quart to get drunk on versus white hipsters and yuppies…” And that would be the racist part – the part where it assumes that all problem drunks are black and all well-off drinkers are white.

    Otherwise, I agree with you.


  • Anon, I don’t deny white or well off folks can’t be drunks. I do argue that I don’t observe them on the streets of Petworth with brownpaper bags. Do you? My comment is based on observation and not racial prejudice. I am sure that there is a portion of the hippster yuppie crowd buying the upscale beer and wine at Whole Foods that are alcoholocs. I just don’t see them walking around the neighboorhoods with open containers, peeing in parks and littering. If I did I would certainly lump them into the problem and oppose a license for the YES. I believe that the reason for the moratorium on liquor licenses in ward 4 to include grocerys is based on this problem and the fact that there are many small grocery bodegas that cater to this clientell by selling singles. If we want to target all alcoholics, lets just dust off the 18th amendment and go dry.

  • i just sent muriel an email as well. honestly- how is Ward 4 supposed to develop/grow commercially if we they just aren’t giving any class b licenses? I, personally, do not want the development that has started with DC USA and spread out to pass us by. I was (am?) looking forward to the Yes! Organic market being 2 blocks from my house- so great, so convenient. And what would go into that space in its absence?

  • Do the people who cry “Racist!!!!” at everyone over everything realize that by doing so they have erased any meaning at all from the word, while at the same time performing a huge disservice, to actual, real racism?

    Rhetorical question, of course…

  • I also e-mailed. Here’s hoping we can make a difference–I’ve been looking forward to Yes since before we moved into our house two years ago, and will be really upset if it doesn’t come through.

  • The issue has alot to do with race when you take into account how a majority black city handles the issue. Alcohol is deemed the cause of many ills all along GA Ave. Instead of providing treatment for the people or just telling them to STOP drinking, the city (majority black council) goes to no end to limit the supply of alcohol in the poor (read: black) wards.
    Just another example of how we have taken on being the victim as an excuse to avoid handling the true problem: lack of personal responsibility.

    The same can be said of the gun issue, fireworks issue, and the crime issue.

  • Nate, so you are saying that is not handled by providing the treatment because so many of the council members are black and because so many in the city are black? Sorry its late in the day with too little coffee – I am just a little confused how that has a lot to do with race as such.

  • ontarioroader – I can’t imagine what you are talking about. Spaghetti Garden is a fine dining establishment!

  • Re: saf responding to Steve…
    “where it assumes that all problem drunks are black and all well-off drinkers are white.”

    … or that there are no white well-off people who are *also* problem drinkers.

    I also really like HB’s point. Introducing fresh produce and also beer and wine to a neighborhood still seems like a net positive public health benefit, even taking into account the possible harm caused by the increased availability of alcohol.

  • I understand that this discussion comes out of a conversation the PoP had with a local merchant last night, and it’s fair to raise the discussion, one we have been having in ANC 4C for the past couple of months.

    The issue is fairly cut and dry. Current law prohibits new supermarkets in Ward 4 from obtaining new beer-and-wine, Class B, licenses. The issue has nothing to do with restaurant, alcoholic beverage licenses, still available, and it’s a seperate issue from the “single sales” law in place.

    The only current option available for Gary Cha, the owner of Yes! Organic Market, is for Mr. Cha to purchase a possibly available license from a convenience store owner elsewhere in Ward 4. The owner of that convenience store told Mr. Cha that he would have to buy the convenience store in order to get the accompanying license. Mr. Cha said at June’s ANC 4C meeting that he can’t afford to do so.

    Safeway, meanwhile, has plans to build at new, “lifestyle” Safeway at its current location near the Georgia/Petworth Metro, and Safeway officials have made it clear that they want a beer-and-wine license for that location.

    As a large, international corporation, Safely can easily choose the possible option currently available — buy and sell a convenience store elsewhere in the Ward in order to obtain a beer-and-wine license. Ditto Giant, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter or other large regional, national or international chains.

    The current law, in effect, penalizes the little guy, Gary Cha and his Yes! Organic Market. One argument is that the law shouldn’t be changed to favor one business. The other side of that is that current law effectively only harms small, supermarket businesses, like Yes!, not the big ones. The big, corporate folks have more resources , therefore more options.

    Sara Green, an ANC commissioner in Takoma, told me that she was one of the Takoma residents who favored the current law a few years back as a way of forcing the Piney Branch Safeway to become more responsive to the neighborhood. The tactic apparently didn’t work. The Piney Branch Safeway wasn’t affected by the new law and has a beer-and-wine license.

    I recall from my own reading over the years and from conversations with my fellow ANC 4C Commissioner, Ron Bland, and others who have worked in supermarkets, the profit margin for supermarkets is slim. Gary Cha has stated that a beer-and-wine license would constitute about 12% of his anticipated sales.

    Whether or not this is a deal-breaker remains to be seen.

    A note about the benefits of competition is relevant here. The Safeway at 17th and Corcoran was long known by Dupont Circle residents as “the Soviet Safeway.” Shelves were sometimes bare, produce lousy, items on the shelves out of date. I vividly recall seeing an Albanian I knew who was then a waiter at Trio’s Restaurant walking out of that Safeway in those days with a look of exasperation on his face. “What’s wrong?,” I asked. He replied, “That Safeway reminds me of supermarkets in Albania. I hated growing up under communism!” I informed he that the neighborhood referred to it as “the Soviet Safeway.” “No wonder!,” he cried.

    When the Whole Foods was within a few weeks of opening on the 1400 block of P, a few blocks away, those of us who lived in the Dupont area noticed the very favorable changes at the old, Soviet Safeway. The produce started looking attractive and fresh. Some of the cashiers who had been surly became friendlier and more helpful in tone. (Many were always wonderful, and I still love a great woman who has been working there for decades nicknamed “Tee.”) The store sparkled and looked cleaner.


    Meanwhile, according to longtime Logan Circle area resident, Jeff Coudriet, a former ABRA employee who works for Councilmember Jack Evans, even the liquor stores, now facing the competition of Whole Foods’ beer-and-wine sales, cleaned up their acts. The sale of “single” wrapped in dark, plastic bags to street drunks became less of a problem.


    It’s what many of us hope for from having Yes! Organic Market arrive on Georgia at Taylor.

    Neighborhood Development Company officials, the people building the structure at Georgia and Taylor, told me Gary Cha will need to decide soon whether or not to build out.

    The topping off ceremony for “The Residences at Georgia,” the building in which Mr. Cha hopes to be doing business with a new Yes!, is scheduled for Tuesday, September 3.

    The planned Yes! would be twice the size of the relatively new Yes! on 12th Street NE in Brookland, two blocks south of Michigan Avenue.

    Yes! always somehow sounds better than “No!”

  • I got an email from Ryan Youngman, CEO of Ellwoods, today. It is not a done deal, lease is not signed, but they continue to make progress toward one.

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