Shaw’s Tavern Closed Until Liquor License Granted

“Dear PoP,

Sad news – check out the Shaw’s Tavern Facebook page. Looks like they’re not making enough money to stay open while they don’t have a liquor license. Hopefully there will be a positive outcome from the hearing and they’ll be able to reopen. Bummed because I’ve been gone on business travel all month and was looking forward to trying to food when I get back next week!”

Shaw’s Tavern Facebook page says:

“Shaw’s Tavern is closing its doors from Saturday 27th of August.
We could not survive without a liquor license. We will re -open when we are allowed to serve alcohol.”

Shaw’s Tavern is located at 520 Florida Ave, NW. They opened without a liquor license on July 29th 2011.

CityPaper’s Young and Hungry wrote last week:

“At a hearing on Aug. 10, a city inspector testified about documents allegedly doctored by a tavern manager, which were used to illegally obtain alcohol from wholesalers for pre-opening festivities.

The board, in recess until Sept. 14, is expected to rule on Shaw’s lingering liquor issues within 90 days.”

66 Comment

  • godspeed…and shit

  • It gets worse.. the head chef is no longer associated with the establishment, according to the fb page.

  • What a damn shame. I think the city needs to make an exception and see the forest through the trees/dark clouds and give them a license. It’s an employer and a major positive for a part of the city that hasn’t seen many sit down restaurants or much quality food in decades

    • Unfortunate perhaps, but I hardly see why they should get an exception. Sounds like they broke the rules, and just because they’re an upscale place in a still-gentrifying part of town doesn’t mean they should get a free pass.

      This isn’t a non-profit organization and they’re in this to make money, not just to help the community. There’s no reason the city should give them special treatment. What about the immigrant trying to open a corner liquor store or pizza/fried chicken joint? They have to jump through all the hoops of DC bureaucracy and play by the rules. Just because a place sells $8 beers doesn’t mean they should be treated any differently.

      • I guess I am more of a libertarian when it comes to “city rules” anyways. I think a lot of the hoops are absurd and 19th century, or even Puritan.

        But then again, the rules are there. I’d make the punishment monetary- hefty fine. That’s what hurts the most anyways.

        • You’re not a libertarian if you ink one business should be able to break the rules that all the other businesses have to follow. It’s absurd to be on shows taverns side.

          • Anctually Anon, as I undestand it, Anonymous was saying that, as a libertarian he/she believes that it is stupid that the city even has those rules in place. However, he/she clearly stated that given that the rule is in place, there should be a punishment.

            I know that many people on here don’t read the comments they are responding to before they take to writing a snarky response, but given that the post in this case was three sentences, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

            For the record, I don’t think it is absurd to be on Shaw’s Tavern’s side. The punishment should fit the crime. Make them pay a fine or something rather than essentially force them out of business. The owners clearly put a lot of their own time and money into this venture in a rough economy and we are basically going to shut them down over one rule breaking. It doesn’t quite seem fair to me.

          • Saying there should be no rules in place is anarchy, not libertarianism. Though, the 2 have certainly diverged less in recent years.

          • ABRA is saying they forged documents, if a corner store had these allegations, all of my fellow gentrifying yuppies would be having a fit. At least pretend to be even handed and consistent.

          • Not saying there should be no rules in place, but rather than the process that exists, how about you just apply, pay a fee, and get your liquor license. It is very libertarian to allow people to do what they want with their property and not let government get in the way by judging what is the best use and all the crap that they figure into the equation when granting these licenses.

            Again, not advocating for Shaw’s here or frankly for the libertarian view, but it’s not anarchy either.

        • you sound like you’ve formed opinions without really knowing all the facts or thinking this through

        • Yes, having to apply for a liquor license is quintessentially Puritan.

    • I’m curious if folks would advocate an exception if they were forging/altering health department documents or construction permits instead of allegedly forging liquor permits.

      • Agreed. I’ve defended these guys on here and on facebook before, and even patronized them sans-booze. I was happy to have a new restaurant in my ‘hood, willing to overlook the incompetence/sliminess in their consistent “we’re just about to open” hype, and willing to accept their claim that the illegal service at their soft-opening was a misunderstanding, and

        But forging documents? If they did that, eff ’em. Any jackass who thinks its okay to forge docs (which in this case is likely chargeable as a federal felony) doesn’t deserve support.

        • Is that what people are saying they did? First I’ve heard of it.

          • Their former GM forged documents. I think the fact that they fired him and that they have taken a significant financial hit being open for a month without a liquor license is a significant punishment.

        • @ Nathaniel,

          I don’t remember anyone forcing them to operate for the past month without a liquor license? If it is such a hardship, they should have never opened, or closed weeks ago. Any financial pain is their own doing.

          Liquor licenses are money printing machines. What do you think they do with all that money when they sell you a 7 dollar pint of beer that cost them $.50 cents?

          At the very least you can go through the well documented and minimally difficult process of obtaining a liquor license before you start printing your own money.

          Considering the forged documents, if I were DCRA, I’d run through their builing permits, occupancy and health dept permits with a fine toothed comb to make sure they were forging or lying about anything else.

          • @huh
            Its worth pointing out that they only served liquor at a charity event they weren’t “printing money” by selling to the public. (by the way that 7 dollar beer may only cost them .$50, but what about the bills it cost to keep a place running, salaries, taxes, insurance etc)

            Yes the financial pain is their own doing, but lets not pretend they haven’t suffered. The point of punishment is to correct behavior and ensure it is not repeated. You better believe they won’tbe cutting any corners regarding liquor again.

    • do you feel that the city should have ignored the forged documents?

    • negative. doctoring official documents shouldn’t get you a slap on the wrist.

  • Amateur hour. Let’s talk about Boundary Stone instead.

  • so what is exactly going on with their liquor license application at this stage? i don’t understand the process.

    do they have to reapply and start from the beginning with the 45 day cards in the window?
    how does it actually work?

  • I think the frustrating thing is everyone wants this place to succeed but if they did forge liquor license documents then it’s hard to build a case that they deserve to have one.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • I can see how much lacking the liquor license hurts – a week ago we went in there for brunch. A guy walked in to the bar, asked if they are serving alcohol because the taps were covered. He just walked out when told they weren’t serving alcohol.

  • This is sad news. I hope they get approved and find a new chef. Thinking about that stretch, is there any news about Zee’s reopening? Last I had heard they were closing briefly for renovations, but that seems like it was quite awhile ago and I’ve not noticed any construction or other activity there…

  • Well all yes the FORMER general manager broke the rules he is no longer there along with the chef and bar manager WOW may i add with 30 employees now what do we do as a community. Can we support the place to reopen and hope for a better management team. Lets move forward people we need this place to open in our neighborhood. Am i making any sense….anyone. agrees with me?

    • what IS there to do?

      i’m with you, they screwed up. they face the consequences. what next?

      can community support expedite the ABRA license? or do they just move through their docket as things are queued?

      how long is it expected before their case is reviewed again?

  • no…we dont NEED any place.
    We may WANT a certain place to exist,but NEED?
    ITS JUST A RESTAURANT after all.
    Besides,if they doctor government papers,how can one trust them with cooking food?
    Just wondering.

  • I’ve been following this on the local listservs and I cannot think of ONE reason to defend the Tavern.

    From the looks of it, they forged a liquor license in order to open and serve alcohol – they may as well have forged health inspection documents and what not. Did they honestly think they could get away with this?

    Best thing we can hope for is a new owner to swoop in and clean up this mess – hopefully the business won’t be tarnished forever.

  • All of you talking about how ABRA should recognize the good this place does for the community… is that the way you justify your hypocrisy? Because if this were Sunset Liquors, Ken’s Carry Out, or Yueng Fong, you’d be riding the regulation train all the way into the station. In fact, if the regulations werent enforced to the level you’d prefer, you’d start blaming Gray for cronyism, favoritism, and probably something about not liking white people.

    I want restaurants to come in too, but we arent so desperate for restaurants that we should support ANYTHING. The willingness for folks to throw out common sense all in the name of “progress” is exactly why we need government regulations in the first place. People are incapable of making the right decisions and the businesses are only going to make decisions that benefit them.

    Restaurants are going to come eventually, hell, soon, the whole strip will be developed. Its important that we wait on quality, well managed, projects that will add something to the neighborhood. We only get to do this once, so its important that its done well.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking. If this were a local liquor store forging a liquor license to buy alcohol illegally and then sell it to customers illegally, then the neighborhood would be up and arms, clamoring for the place to never be allowed to open.

      • no one is up in arms about Shaw’s Tavern because it hasn’t affect quality of life issues the way the liquor stores actions have.

        there is a difference and that is why people respond differently on an emotional level.

        no one thinks forging documents is okay. and the guy is fired, so there is an expectation that operations would change. the issues with the liquor stores are far larger in scope and you should investigate these matters before pointing fingers about hypocrisy.

        • And I’m sure you’d take the liquor store owner’s word for it that it was just the fired employee who broke the law and that the owner had no knowledge and did not participate. I’m SURE everyone would give the liquor store that benefit of the doubt.

          • it must be nice to feel such certainty.

          • Unless you lack a modicum of experience with the neighborhood wars that go on around here, you know that I’m right.

            The market next to the firehouse on North Capitol is good example. Neighbors actively engaged in halting it, I’m sure everyone would jump down the owners throat (rightly so) if he forged some documents.

            No double standards and Shaws Tavern isnt so great that it cant be replaced by something else.

            Move along.

    • The difference is that the community is already more than adequately served by corner stores, liquor stores and godawful Chinese/sub/chicken wing takeout. Decent quality sit-down restaurants are in pretty short supply. However, I agree that sympathy is lessened because of the nature of the offense, but I also feel badly for multiple servers, line cooks, hosts, and other staff who probably had nothing to do with the offense and are now out of a job. You, on the other hand, seem really happy they’ve been put out of work. Strange.

      • You say the hood is “adequately served by…godawful Chinese/sub/chicken wing takeout”, but I guarantee you that if another one opened that it not only would be successful (defeating your argument of saturation) but that it would go through the licensing process without forging documents so it can operate legally.

        • If they were likely to be successful, take out joints would be opening right now. As it stands in reality, more bars and restaurants are opening in the eastern Shaw/east of Shaw neighborhoods than take out places.

      • Decent quality sit-down restaurants are less than 10 minutes walk away, in one of the city’s trendiest nightlife areas. This place is 5-6 blocks from multiple wine bars, live music venues and ethnic sit-down restaurants. Directly across the street from a delicious Thai takeout. Obviously sucks for the employees who thought they had a steady job, but don’t act like the owners are selfless pioneers putting their own asses on the line just so they can provide a much needed service to the community. They can see the U St. boom spreading eastward and want a piece of the action. They get no special sympathy from me.

    • The type of “good” that Shaw’s Tavern does for the community that makes them different from all the other places you mentioned, is that Shaw’s Tavern appeals to the demographic posting in this blog.

      People are also anxiously awaiting the significant ROI on the properties they purchased a couple years ago, and nothing says “hot hood” like an independent, upscale restaurant serving the latest microbrews.

    • @ Anon 10:35 I’m so in agreement that, well, I cried when I read your summation. I read this blog not only for POP’s awesome man-about-town reporting but also for the dripping sanctimony of many POP posters that bleeds into every issue that they weigh in on…whether it’s their ‘rights’ as dog owners or their ‘rights’ as bike riders or any other issue where there are established rules or LAWS that conflict with their convenience. I’m not putting them down; I literally find it a fascinating mentality…as long as they keep it ‘classy’. Anyway, I digress…

      I WANT Shaw’s Tavern (or their successor, if that winds up being the case) to succeed. I DEMAND that Shaw’s Tavern (or their successor, if that winds up being the case) obeys the **law**. I’m no lawyer but I do know that there is some role for precedent in constructing them. Suggestions that we, as a ‘community’, should be the case study for how to allegedly be caught red-handed circumventing the law and then enlist community sympathy to help you get want you want…I just don’t want to be associated with that kind of practice. Yup, they eff’d up, let down 30 employees and an entire community (at least POPville). Now, let’s get down to business. First, fire the offender (check). Next, with guidance from ABRA **APPLY** for a license via REGULAR ORDER. Then, if the other business licensing, certificate of occupancy documents are in order and will allow, think of some other potential uses for the space while you WAIT for a determination. Think: pop-up art gallery, Temporarium, venue for kids birthday parties, civic meeting venue, etc. Might make a good overture to a community that contains individuals who’d rather be complicitous in your offense than help you buff your tarnished image. Finally, once you’ve got your license again, PLEASE re-hire the executive chef. Sounds like he’s into some good cookin’…and I, for one, love good cookin’ – to go along with my artisanal microbrews…

  • Shaw’s management clearly screwed up; they deserve to be punished. Wait for the owner to sue the manager: if he forged documents w/o the owners knowledge there’s got to be some liability. Yes? No? (Any lawyers that can clarify? I’m talking out of my ass…)

    Over the long-run this may be a good thing.

    The bottom line for me is that Chef John’s hamburger cost $15 and that’s too much. The food was good; the beer selection was to be good. But Shaw’s was aiming a bit too high-end for what I want in the neighborhood, which is a local bar with good, reasonably-priced food and beer that doesn’t cost $7/pint (looking at you Rustik). If Shaw’s can re-open, get that license, bring it down a notch on the high-concept food end, they’ll get more of my money in the long-run.

    • ledroittiger

      +1 – Rustik’s food isn’t good.

    • I agree with you Shaw but have to add that I was not impressed with the dishes at Shaw’s. They were high concept but lacked delivery. When you have an operation like this that does not serve alcohol, your food better be friggen amazing. I found it to be randomely expensive and not prepared well (yukon fries were raw, salad was barely passable, roast chicken was old and tough and the sides were way off).

      Rustik on the other hand, has it’s off days but as a whole, truly delivers – their service is generally pretty solid and their prices, while not cheap, are fair. We’ll see where Boundary Stone takes things – they have truly put their heart and soul into their project (not that Shaw’s didn’t..but in the end, you can’t be proud of spending the supposed million dollars on what they have going there…).

      • I agree–I don’t mean to rag on Rustik, which I really like. But a beer list where half the options are $7 is a little much to serve as your local.

        • Go during happy hour. Booze in your backyard afterwards. This is bloomingdale/eckington/truxton/shaw/ledroit, we have plenty of space to spread out. I’ve found after moving to a 3000sqft house from a 700sqft apartment, I have far less desire to go to the bar!

          I agree, they need to put a few more popularly priced items on the menu. But, 3 bucks for a yuengling is fair at happy hour. Also, they’re pretty comparable to Argonaut. I would imagine we wont get too much relief from Boundary Stone, maybe a buck or so… but 5-8 bucks is the new going rate for beer. I blame Nats Ballpark.

  • Regardless of however people want to rationalize support for the establishment despite them forging documents, obtaining alcohol illegally, and serving alcohol without a license illegally, there’s something that (I think) hasn’t been said yet:

    The actions, apparently blamed on a lone manager, still fall back to the establishment’s owner(s). The owner is the one in charge, and it’s up to him/her to take responsibility for the actions of his/her employees.

    It sounds like they’re making the former manager into a fall guy to hopefully dupe the neighborhood into continuing support. And it’s apparently working.

    I’m all for new development, but I don’t think this particular owner is the best for the neighborhood. Maybe they can sell to someone else, who can give an honest, legal go at things.

    • This is DC. Where the Mayor is not responsible for the actions of his chief of staff; where a sitting councilman turns down a bribe from his CoS, and does not report said CoS to the law, and his constiuents are not screaming for his resignation; Where a sitting councilman gives money to his girlfriend, and his constiuents are not begging him to retire; Where a sitting councilman steals money from children, and his constiuents are not demanding his resignation.

      There is no “legal” or “responsible” in DC, just who you know to pay when they paying needs doing.

      Tell it indeed. Speak truth topower, and put my payout in the third drawer left.

  • Where I grew up liquor licenses are hard to get and most restuarants don’t have them. It’s sad that a restaurant apparently can’t survive here without one.

  • this is pathetic! forged documents? i literally cannot believe what i am reading.

    if they are forging their licenses then who knows what other corners they are cutting….


  • Have to agree with the others here that there would not likely be an outpouring of support for a less-trendy establishment that committed the same infraction. The forging of documents moves this beyond a simple “woops we misread our permit”-type of thing, and into the realm of intentional deceipt. There’s really no excuse for it, and the owners of Shaw’s should absolutely be held responsible.

    That said, this cessation in business might actually be a good thing for Shaw’s. In addition to resolving their liquor license dispute, perhaps they can work on some of the food-related issues that have been raised as well.

  • This reminds me of the situation back in 2005 at Vegetate over on 9th Street. They did nothing wrong, went through the process, didn’t forge documents and had to wait a year and a half before a law was finally changed to allow them (and other businesses in the city) to open all because an influential black church didn’t want gentrification in “their” hood (church actually assumed the owners were white because it was a vegetarian establishment, go figure).

    There were petitions, neighborhood support, etc, but it still took almost 2 years before they were able to serve.

    So I ask, why should Shaw’s Tavern get any special treatment from ABRA? Seriously, how would the city justify giving them a license? This is what happens when you screw up and cut corners. Forging documents? GTFOHWTBS!

  • I know the owner and the manager of this establishment – it does not surprise me one bit that documents were forged here and corners were cut. This is how the owner is – just take a look inside any property he has purchased and “renovated” – everything is made of paper maiche. Knowing what I know about them, I would NEVER consume anything coming out of any establishment run by this group, even if it were the last place on earth to get food – I would rather starve to death as I would be afraid of eating contaminiated food prepared here. Look at the window – those potates haven’t even moved. BEWARE!!

  • Half (not all) of you people bug the shit out of me. You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Most likely self-entitled yelpers and “shit on everything” types. Yes, Shaw Tavern fucked up, but comparing them to corner liquor stores’ ABRA struggles is rediculous. They got rid of the manager who screwed up. Done. Let them pay for their mistake and move on. Obviously this neighborhood is changing and needs a restaurant like Shaw to cater to this new emerging clientele. The majority of the neighborhood was crazy happy about this place opening. It was a GOOD thing. Charging $8 dollars a beer seems to be everyone’s convenient arguement to call it a gentrified venue. Face it: The neighborhood IS gentrified. Don’t like it? OK, cool, go back to 40 oz liquor stores with plexi glass & pawn shops then. Enjoy some Mad Dog 20/20 instead. The second a decent restaurant opens up over there, half of the rich gentrified bastards will be swooping in ordering said “8 dollar beers” and pestering people about their wifi connections so they can noodle with their blackberries at the tables and bar, and irratating everyone with their strollers full of bratty kids asking when they’ll have a jazz brunch.

  • I worked there for a while and I had never seen such a fast track job maybe a little too fast.
    but the owener is a good guy and invested tons of money.
    I sure hope he gets a chance to recover.
    and the ex GM is a young smart guy who will recover he is tougher than the back wall on a shooting gallery.
    The chef has a gift and will do well.

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