A Cap on Alcohol Beverage Licenses for H Street NE?

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

It seems like every week or so we’re learning of a cool new restaurant and/or bar coming to coming to H St, NE so I’m curious what you guys think about a possible cap on alcohol beverage licenses?

ANC 6A’s Sharee Calverley Lawler writes:

“Our ANC is beginning a 3-part discussion about whether to request a cap on alcohol beverage licenses for H Street. The first of these three meetings takes place during the September 20th Alcohol Beverage Licensing (ABL) Committee meeting, 7pm at Sherwood Recreation Center (10 & G, NE).”

42 Comment

  • I think it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to consider at this point in time.

  • stupid, stupid, stupid. In theory maybe a good idea: the idea to create retail on H. But retail on H won’t come until rents come down and density goes up. The cap may affect the rent, but it won’t affect the population density. Right now its hour wait for any of the restaurants on most nights (1+ on weekends). Retail will come…but it will take a few restaurants failing and landlords on H to lower their rent..that will come when the only interested parties are retail.

    • I doubt the rent will ever go down on H Street. I think that’s wishful thinking.

    • Rents are based off of property values. Property values are market based. Rents are what they are.

      The only way to attract retail is to restrict alcohol based establishments. They’re insanely profitable, because they don’t pay their taxes properly.

      • saf

        “they don’t pay their taxes properly”

        Can you explain that statement?

        • Cash based business under report their profitability with impunity. Unlike you or I, who have our incomes reported to the IRS, a business self reports. There’s no way to verify the self reporting is accurate (honor system) without a full and detailed accounting. The IRS knows it, the OTR knows it. However, they have every little enforcement ability because Republican’s want a little sheep for the enforcement side of taxation honesty.

          I know people who work and have worked for some of the major “players” in the DC bar scene who were paid out of the till and never gave their SSN’s to their employers. That means that the bars are not only shorting the city on employment taxes (Medicare/medicaid/social security), they’re also shorting income taxes and burying the cost of running the business itself. That which means the profitability numbers are completely made up. Every few years the IRS catches 1-2 of these guys using double booking, but it’s usually when they’re trying to live like drug kingpins and reporting $100k in income. However, you can fly under the radar for years if you’re well diversified. You let 1-2 restaurant/bars die every couple of years to make it look like your overall operation is barely profitable.

          The problem of course, is that when you can expand your margins through under paying your taxes, you inflate the value of real estate (you can afford to pay more for RE, because you’re making more profit) which makes it impossible for legitimate businesses to compete for space.

          Ergo, if we’re not going to enforce taxes to create a truly efficient market, we need to restrict the number of people taking advantage of the system.

          • saf

            So, your assumption is that because some do this, they all do this?

            OK, I can see why a person might think this, but I think you are wrong.

      • Rents will go down when A)restaurants reach equilibrium and B) a few restaurants go belly up..and no new restaurants will rent. 2) It may be retail chains that come knocking, but it will be retail.

  • Waiting a flood of responses about how H street doesn’t want to become adams morgan.

    That being said, I don’t think caps should be placed and the market should determine when it is no longer necessary for businesses to open which require licenses. Caps tend to create a barrier to entry for new businesses.

    • The “market forces” argument falls on it’s face when you consider the lack of a level playing field wrt taxes.

      DC’s bar owners short the city on income and personnel taxes because no one audits them and they’re cash based businesses. That creates higher margins for the business and the ability to afford higher rents. These rents are higher than retail margins can afford and be profitable.

  • Terrible idea. Limiting competition only serves to benefit incumbent interests.

  • It’s an poorly veiled attempt to slow down the needed gentrification thats well underway.

    • + a million
      And the solidification of a “Stassi” mentality.

    • not really.

    • It’s not an anti gentrification argument at all.

      The neighborhood is already gentrified, and the gentrifiers don’t want the place to turn into a 20-something, Bridge and Tunnel bathroom like Adam’s Morgan has become.

    • Right . . . because there are so few bars and restaurants on H Steet now. And it’s only every week that a new bar or restaurant is announced for that area. And then there is that trolley project. And every house within walking distance that comes on the market sells at or above asking price.
      I could see how a moratorium on new alcohol licenses would stop gentrification right in it’s tracks – not.

  • Stupid idea. The neighborhood is changing for the better. You can’t win that battle. H street has a farmer’s market.
    It’s done. Accept it.

  • We should raise all barriers to business success in this time economic plenty! H Street is a thriving multifaceted economic power house as it is. It no longer needs food and alcoholic to prop it up. Bring on the bureaucracy!

    What we really need to put a stop to is the avant garde hetro-erotic poetry classes for purse dogs recovering from shop-a-holics anonymous. That is what is wrong with is great nation!

  • If they want H Street to become as stale as 18th St in Adams Morgan they will limit permits. Stupid idea. All you do is reward crappy products that way. Competition is a good thing.

  • Interesting… I personally don’t feel that H St is approaching the “Adams Morganification” saturation point of alcohol establishments. I think a cap would stall development in the neighborhood, but then again I don’t live there and those who do might feel differently.

  • The only thing keeping H St from becoming the next in the Adams Morgan-U St line of succession is that the hordes find it Metro inconvenient. Eventually (if and when it ever gets finished) the streetcar might change people’s minds.

    To me it’s actual worth the $8 cab fare to hang out in a cool area not (yet) full of annoying people.

  • DC Gov/City Council/ANCs = why we can’t have nice things.

    H st is doing just fine…leave it alone and let the market dictate. I can’t afford to buy a house on capital hill…I don’t see the ANC trying to legislate real estate so that I can buy into the market. If you do not have a viable retail option that can survive on H st, maybe you shouldn’t open it on H st. It seems to me places with good business models/customer base (metro mutts, florist) seem to be doing just fine if not better.

  • Instead, I would have a cap on non-resident visitor douchebags on the weekends.

  • I really do understand the impulse but I am not sure you can stop it. A lot of what is driving this is whether someone can afford to open a business. City rents (landlords have to cover property, maintenance, & profit) are higher therefore certain businesses don’t find it profitable.

    First, come the bars and eating establishments because they are possibly the only ones that can make enough for the rents. Then in certain locations you get the chains because in those locations – likely with even higher rents – they are the only ones that can afford the rents because name recognition gives comfort to the tourists who are uncomfortable patronizing places they don’t recognize (see Union Station article in today’s WaPo).

  • No one has noted that most of the existing alcohol licenses on H street NE are owned by one person. That is reason enough not to restrict the number of licenses but in addition, H Street still has hundreds of vacant spaces. I would like to see them filled. Judging by the volume of license applications posted DC Register, there are few people wanting to open up a new place in DC anyway. The number of applications has really dropped, the Gray administraion is posting them promptly.

    If ANC6A really cared about the noise and other quality of life issues, then they would restrict their own approval of all of the outdoor patios and decks that they do.

  • Here we go again. the Alcohol and Beverage committee tried to get the moratorium put in place a couple of years ago and residents showed up in enough force to beat it back. Maybe they’re hoping more nimbys have moved in or whatever. H St is no where near a saturation point. Still too many boarded up buildings.

  • Liquor license moratorium on H would be insanity and a death sentence for the future of the strip. There’s considerable positive momentum there now. Why would you fix something that’s not broken, just because of some Puritanical boogeyman? Parking concerns, I’d wager to say, are mostly what’s behind this, as well as the typical NIMBY characteristic of your average ANC nebnose.

    To have viable retail, you need considerable foot traffic. Without daytime office foot traffic, the other main source of consumer foot traffic would be at night, and that foot traffic is primarily driven by people frequenting restaurants and bars. Unfortunately, local residents shopping at their local commercial corridor is rarely enough to keep those places in business. U Street and some of the places along that corridor have the population density and demographics to make the vintage shops viable, as well as the foot traffic due to the restaurants and bars that co-habitate the corridor. And of course, there’s metro there.

    H Street’s best bet is to add another 20-30 bars and restaurants over the next five years, to the point where it would likely be saturated but create , and sprinkle retail in gradually. Retail usually comes once an area is already established, not as a first entrant.

    (Also note that there is already a considerable amount of retail on H. Just not the kind that typical PoP residents or Hill folks would frequent- incense shops, urban clothing, etc.)

  • “Retail usually comes once an area is already established, not as a first entrant.”

    Tell that to Adams Morgan, who had a small but nice retail stores from the late 80’s thru the late 90’s. Now, very few places can afford the rent, so there is very little retail on 18th street.

    Then tell that to U Street or even Georgetown, which are far more like H St than adams morgan will ever be. Georgetown in the 80’s-90’s, where there was far more (non-mall) retail on M St then there is now. But then U St, which has little retail, and 14th Street, whose retail is actually moving out, but both U St/14th St have far more retail now than they did in the 80’s/90’s.

    Adams Morgan is 3 blocks long on 18th. U St/14th St & Georgetown are more like H Street that stretch for many many blocks.

    But all problems evenutally come down to rent and capacity.

    I do not agree with a moratorium.. but I can understand wanting to figure out a way to ensure all the buildings on H don’t become bars.

  • There are still a ton of boarded up buildings on H Street, especially in the middle of the strip. Any discussion of a moratorium is way premature. Let’s fill those storefronts and then we can get choosy.

  • There is no daytime population there…period.

    Until this is addressed along the corridor, retail will not make any kind of sense.

Comments are closed.