Shaw’s Tavern Denied Liquor License

Back in Aug. 11 we learned that Shaw’s Tavern located at 520 Florida Ave, NW would be closed until it was granted a liquor license. Late Wed. afternoon ANC5C03 rep Hugh Youngblood tweeted:

“#ABRA denied the Shaw’s Tavern alcohol license application. Let’s hope that the VA will help Engine Co 12 (Firehouse) in #BloomingdaleDC”

ABRA ruled:

You can read the full finding below:

Shaw’s Tavern Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law 11-CMP-00314 – 11 02 2011

So what happens now – will it become a coffee shop or will the owner have to sell the property? Other options for the current owner? Any predictions?

84 Comment

  • shaw’s tavern: featuring amateur hour, all night every night!

  • Why should we hope that EC12 has any better fate? Its the same folks that broke the rules with Shaw’s. Let these jokers sell their establishments to more responsible and capable people. In the long run, that will ensure better assets for the community. If people who think its ok to commit forgeries and fraud are allowed to open, it will only mean trouble somewhere else in the long run.

  • If they sell it will go fast. If I had the coin I would make them an offer right quick. How much $ do you think they are in for?

    • The ABC finding said that they spent over $1 million renovating the place…

      • Not exactly. The finding says the D-bag invested more than $1mm in the establishment. That would include purchase price as well as reno costs. That building, which was intended to have a restaurant plus at least two rental apartments, couldn’t have been cheap even if he bought it a while ago.

        Also, the citation is to the dude’s own testimony, so a big grain of salt is in order.

  • How do random corner crap markets get their liquor licenses renewed while Shaws Tavern gets shut down? I would love to understand. Why is New Reservoir Market in business, but somehow Shaws Tavern doesn’t work? Something about this doesn’t add up…

    • maybe those corner stores play by the rules, or if they don’t play by the rules they don’t get caught? I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand. Shaw’s Tavern was caught falsifying official documents. I’m surprised they’re not going to jail for fraud.

    • you’re not presenting much of an argument here.

    • Witch hunt!

    • I think if you read the court findings, you’ll find the answer to your question.

    • Looks law Shaw’s got punished because they knowingly did something wrong, got caught and because they proved to be a bad risk, got rejected. A new owner there following the rule may not have a problem.

  • The full record is pretty damning. As much as I hate to see Shaw’s Tavern shutterred, and think the denial is short-sighted, I can’t overlook the fact that the bar owners/managers forged City documents and knowingly violated City regulations.

    • Although its easy to say the “management” of Shaw’s is to blame I don’t think that’s worded correctly. I am happy to say the few times I dined at Shaw’s for the food only I met a lot of the staff there. The manager I met as well as meeting the Chef seemed to know what they were doing. I never saw May there when the restaurant was open for food. I would say more accuratly that May screwed the pooch then left a large pile of dung for the people that stayed there to clean up.

      I also happened to be present the last night Shaw’s was open randomly… The staff there got hit the hardest. The friendly faces that were there with only food treated me very well and made me feel like it was a true neighborhood restaurant.

      My rambling leads me to hope that I still have a chance to see some of those faces if Benson or anyone else happens to save Shaw’s. The FB post in AUG said 30 employees. May never set foot in the restaurant when it was operational as far as I saw and still managed to cause 30 employees their jobs. (I heard through the grapevine too that May of course still has a job with Fathi!!! Doesn’t seem just!) So I hope for the sake of the 30 that worked there that we can all just single out the person responcible (STEVE MAY) and commend those that still offered some of the best food and service I have had in DC. (Side note, I need to find out what the chef did to make the pork I had on my last visit, best pork dish OF MY LIFE!)

  • I have but two words that could help turn these two lumps of coal into diamonds:

    ****MIKE BENSON****

    (He’s back, ladies and gents. He’s back….!)

    • why would he touch it?

      brian brow needs to give up the ghost on the firehouse.

    • Benson is back? Someone please send him back to Bloomingdale. We need him to open a place!!!

    • Little thought to that one… Didn’t Brian Brown try to get Benson to operate the building now referred to as Engine Company 12? I would wonder if there’s anything that would indicate him being interested or not from that.

  • Gee they weren’t able to slip a few bucks to the commissioners to get past this? ha ha. Been in dc too long I guess. My money says no way will they sell. The current owners can keep the building but let someone else run the restaurant business end of things – and that someone can apply for a liquor license. Not shedding any tears for these people. They blew it but they’ll be baaaack. And, btw, kudos for a city agency that tells people to play by the rules.

  • PS. I read it in a magazine so it must be true! Somebody in Popville must know him? Please?

  • Did they get slapped with some kind of fine too, anyone know? Forgery?

  • It does have a certain “punishment not fitting the crime feeling.” Make them pay a fine, issue then suspend the license for a period of time…something short of complete denial should be an option here. It just seems counterproductive in a town with such high unemployment to kill a business for serving a few beers.

    • +1, I agree with you.

    • But it wasn’t the handful of beers that was a big deal, it was the fraud. If Stephen May had in fact gone to a liquor store, bought a few cases, and served them at the opening, whatever. But he sent a forged license out to multiple distributors until he found someone to deliver to the restaurant through official channels. Tsk, tsk.

    • Forgery of liquor license. You don’t think that is ground to deny an actual liquor license?

  • The bottom line is that it’s sucks Shaw Tavern didn’t get their chance to add to the community/neighborhood. Beaurocracy and regulations got them in the end but the residents of DC lost. Why can’t we have a decent local pub without having to hire lawyers who have OCD and owners who are assholes (with OCD) make it happen so that the people in the neighborhood have a wonderful place to hang out. How many changes of ownership and bar names do we have to witness for example the property across from 930 club.. and no one gives a crap…do we have to read about on POP that the readers don’t care about…until we get together as a community to support real businesses that we want to support?! I want to hang out at Shaw Tavern not another sports bar, early closing, no food, weird staffed bar like Climax or whatever it’s oddly called now. Climax? Really? You think we want to hang out at a bar called Climax? FU.

    • You are completely full of shit. “Beaurocracy” and regulations didn’t “get them in the end”. They broke the law. You can think the law is dumb. And if you want to break it to make a point about dumb regulations, fine. Go ahead. But when you cut corners, forge documents, and lie to investigators don’t whine when they throw the book at you.

      I honestly can’t believe anyone is defending them… these people wouldn’t have been assets to the community. They had their chance and because of their actions, progress has been set back. You can blame government all you want, but these are the laws that every other establishment has had to follow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a scathing denial as Shaw’s Tavern received.

      • +1000. This is pure and utter head-in-a$$ incompetency. Not to mention criminal. High school students would have done a better job, both with the application and the forgery (white out?? seriously?).

        And I say this as someone who patronized the restaurant and lives only three blocks away.

      • +1
        They went out of their way to screw up.

        • You guys are amazing…going to all lengths to avoid placing the blame squarely where it belongs.

          The Liquor license was theirs to lose. Playing by the same rules everyone else plays by, they weren’t going to be denied the license. All the had to do was wait a little longer.

          But nooooo…they decided to forge gov documents, lie to everyone and serve booze without a license.

          End of story. Someone will buy it, rename it, play by the rules and be serving booze out of the place in 6-8 months.

  • Brian Brown and Abbas Fathi are both involved with Engine Company 12.

    After reading the finding from ABRA on Shaw’s Tavern, they hit Fathi pretty hard on being unfit for a liquor license due to not knowing anything about the liquor laws. I just don’t see how they’re going to decide that somehow EC12 can receive its license as long as Fathi is associated with it.

  • So two of the ABC commissioners actually voted in favor of giving Mr Fathi the license to serve booze. Even though he broke laws, forged documents etc. Now there’s the DC I know and love! Smooch.

    People – don’t be mad at ABRA because you can’t hang out at Shaws. It’s not that hard to get this licensing thing right. ABRA issues licenses all the time. IT’s not the city who messed up your Friday night, it was the amateur applicants.

  • PoP–How in God’s name did you not report the shout-out in paragraph 16 of the findings? You’re in a quasi-judicial opinion. Sky’s the limit now.

    • Seriously, that was my thought as well. PoP comments being cited as evidence. Next thing you know, PoP will be used to prosecute war criminals at the Hague.

  • Oh excuse me fellow POP (not in support of Shaw Tavern) readers…since we know the details of a business’s short comings in following ABRA’s licensing rules/guideline for licensing shall we all feel good in knowing every business in dc that has a liquor license went through the same scrutiny and continues to abide by the law(s) to the nail? If you think this move back to suburban MD and VA. FU. If you live in D.C. and want to stay here even after you having your f-ing 1-2 kids you should know in order to have the “progressive, cool, accesible” city you have to have the heart to support your local businesses. And stop thinking with your over thought educated minds and get real with what it takes to make a city great and alive/thriving. It’s not about nit picking and over thinking every little licensing issue…like this one. Let businesses thrive so we have a reason to live here. Fuck your rules.

  • My takeaway: don’t put money into a DC business unless you have plenty to pay off the all the corrupt boards necessary to get your permits, otherwise the city will break you.

  • Sorry to see that this establishment won’t be open for business, but it’s not hard to understand why the ABRA Board made the decision that they did. It’s almost as if the proprietors were daring them to deny their application.

    First, the announcements that they’d be open by a certain date before they had their liquor license. Then, they open, but claim publicly they won’t be serving alcohol because they don’t yet have their license. Then, they forge the license documents so they can take alcohol deliveries. And last start serving alcohol openly without the license, but claim it doesn’t count because it was a charity event.

    The whole thing has been frustrating to watch.

    The most exasperating part is that the part that tripped them up isn’t the hard part. Alcohol licenses aren’t that hard to get in DC. What’s hard is getting past the ANC without a “voluntary agreement” that limits the hours of the business or imposes other onerous conditions, and the delays that can result from trying to negotiate the agreement. That wasn’t the problem here.

    I hope Mr. Farthi can recapture his investment somehow, and that the restaurant can open in a form that allows it to be profitable. I don’t see any way for that to happen unless they can serve booze. Maybe there’s some way that he can allow the issue to cool off, hire new management, and reapply quickly.

    • Exactly! You can’t expect to openly break the law and then complain about how you got caught.

      And while I think their intentions were good, I don’t think they’d have been such a great neighbor. If they don’t think these laws apply to them, what else would they be willing to forge/lie about?

    • And unfortunately, if he really wants to recover his investment in the property, he’ll probably have to sit on it for years, while waiting for the surrounding neighborhood to hopefully develop, and increase the value of the property. Because nobody in their right mind is going to pay what it would take for the guy to earn a profit on what he put into this place right now.

    • Hiring new management obviously wont do. They need a license and with Fathi attached doesn’t look promising. And for those of us who supported Shaw’s when they were open I met the “management” there. It was basically the chef left with one guy who got left holding the bag. The only person that needed to be run out was! Now if we can just get May on a bus out of town. The thing that sucks is the people working there made my visits awesome (along with the great food).
      Basically, whatever happens they should change the name. They will unlikely have the same staff and without the chef I doubt the quality of food will ever be as good! They should name it something prohibition related get someone to get a license and lease it or buy it from Fathi. You’d think he’d be more than ready to get his name outta these blogs and the paper by now!

  • Ask the guys at Boundary Stone and Rustik how hard it was to get a license. It’s not. It may be a process, but it’s so far been the easiest part of the process for me. My guess is that Mr. Farthi (assuming he owns the building) leases it out to a restaurant group that runs it. He makes his investment back and the community gets a licensee that understands all the rules and regulations.

  • RIP Shaw’s Tavern, I had great hopes for you.

    Hopefully another business can come through with a similar concept, it would be really great for the area.

  • I just look at that building and I think… “Starbucks”

  • I ate at Shaw’s Tavern twice and loved it. I’d also chew off my left leg for more development in Shaw and Bloomingdale. It’s a major bummer that ST’s owners are so corrupt and/or incompetent.

    That said, I think ABRA’s decision is the right one. And I don’t believe ABRA’s rules are killing businesses cause I see them opening up all across the city — H Street being a case in point. I want responsible businesses in my neighborhood (aka Rustik, Windows, Boundary Stone) and not just any business.

    Kiss Engine-whatever goodbye and focus good thoughts on the Howard, Progression Place and O Street Market.

  • claire

    I’ve got to admit, as someone who lives in the neighborhood, the amount of incompetence (or is it just disregard for the law?) with this project has made me kind of angry. There’s absolutely no excuse for the missteps made here, and if they had just cleaned up their act, I guarantee this place would’ve been well-supported and well-loved in the neighborhood. Here’s hoping someone who actually gives a damn about doing this right takes over.



  • andy

    I would sell the place as a turnkey bar/restaurant. Should be a way to make some cash back.

    Would there be any problem getting a liquor license if somebody else with a better record just bought out the ownership?

  • I think ABRA really didn’t have a choice… the owners screwed up, bad.

    I’m just fuming at Mr. Mays and his mismanagement. In the time they took to reno Shaw’s Tavern, they could have at least finished the remodel of the apartments upstairs and made that corner feel a little less empty.

    My friend’s place is right across the street, and it kills me to see a nice building ready for business, sitting empty. It’s sort of a slap in the face. Can’t help but feel it’s disrespectful to the neighborhood not to try and just do the minimum required by law to open your business.

  • Wait. I see Steve May at the firehouse everyday. That he’s not working there stuff is b.s. Also, Why should the firehouse get a license when they also held an illegal event for NCMS that served alcohol and food for a cover.

    Get rid of these clowns and give the building to someone who who is serious.

  • I live 4 blocks away and would have loved to have shaw tavern, but i also work in the industry and think that people who are willing to out right disobey they law for profit are also willing to cut cost and quality in your food. I don’t trust them at all.

  • SO wanted to like this place, but the food was objectionably terrible. Fingers crossed that the space is reoccupied by SOMEONE who can both play by the rules and run a decent kitchen.

  • What a total cascade of poo. The colossal arrogance and ignorance of the developer/business owner, combined with the rent seeking and petty tyranny of the ABC, combine to do one only thing: screw over Shaw residents who just want a nice place to live. Now people who were going to work there don’t have jobs. People who were going to eat and drink there won’t. The city loses tax revenue all around. An utterly sub-optimal result prevails, when all it would have taken was some creativity on the part of the ABC (why wouldn’t “fire your manager and learn the rules and come back in 5 months” suffice?) or some planning by the developer could’ve prevented this mess. DC, you never disappoint when it comes to disappointment.

  • maybe this guy could take over shaw’s and the firehouse:

    he’s looking into shaw or bloomingdale.

    • This Cheston guy better not come to Bloomingdale or Shaw unless he’s prepared to make a ton of money and have everyone in both neighborhoods — men and women — worshipping him as a living god. That’s how badly we want to spend money in good establishments. Think wisely, Cheston!

      Regarding Mr. May, if he is still involved at Engine 16, the comments on this sight pointing out his involvement will probably be used to deny E-16 a license. We’re watching you, May!

      Finally, I disagree with THE POSTER’S CLAIM, as he types it, that Fahti isn’t to blame. He hired and supervised May. The buck stops with Fahti. Send both of them to Cleveland.

      • Agreed. Fathi is as much to blame as May. He let May do this and will likely let it happen again at the firehouse.

      • maybe. i live in bloomingdale and would certainly love a place like that here.
        BUT, we’ll be getting a wine bar in 2012. the firehouse someday/year.

        i think rustiks taken a hit with boundary stone opening up.
        so how many bars can we support? 3 now. 2 soon. i don’t think we can support too many more.

        pragmatically, i think shaw is more practical.
        i think NoMa might be an even better choice.

  • Most of my info on this has been from Pop… I have nothing to add to the “these guys are idiots,” “”DCRA is just doing it’s job,” “DCRA is terrible,” thread.

    I live in LeDroit and can’t wait for this property to be something that’s licensed and run properly.

    The neighborhood could use a few more businesses (corner stores with groceries, pubs, cafes) and hopefully the Tavern will be able to operate before another spot opens up, the clientele already lives nearby.

  • Saw Steve May at the firehouse a little while ago. Beware folks!

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