Should Liquor Licenses for Restaurants and/or Bars Not Be Issued Near Rehabilitation Centers?

2711 12th St, NE

On Monday we learned that Menomale, Pizza Napoletana and Craft Beer, was facing a liquor license fight in Brookland. Commissioner Vaughn Bennett, ANC 5B04, has released more info about the objection:

As an elected official, (ANC Commissioner), I have a duty to properly represent all of the residents in my Single Member District.

While I personally am not in opposition to a liquor license for Menomale, I must assist those who oppose it because of their anonymity and sobriety in an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, who would be immediately adversely impacted by an alcohol serving establishment at 2711 12th Street NE.

The rehabilitation center is in close proximity to Menomale.

The rehabilitation center is closer to Menomale than anyone’s house or apartment who has posted about this topic on the list-serves.

I believe that the location of the rehabilitation center was selected years ago due to the fact that there are no alcohol serving establishments in very close proximity. Can you imagine the impact that the daily scent of alcohol (Menomale seeks an alcohol serving sidewalk cafe) would have on a recovering alcoholic who is just trying to get home after work?

In addition, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) regulations require a tavern liquor license applicant to be at least 400 feet away from a school. The 400 foot distance is taken into consideration for restaurant liquor license applicants.

The regulations were put in place to protect the children! I give an exclamation because of the many condescending comments made regarding our children walking past the establishment, yet no one has challenged the ABRA regulations. So do we ignore the regulations and the purpose of their creation for our personal benefit? I can’t.

When ANC 5B was tasked with scoring the medical marijuana cultivation centers (mmcc), the Department of Health (DOH) regulations (that ABRA helped create) stated that the mmcc had to be at least 300 feet from a school or a rehabilitation center.

I will forward additional information as soon as I can, (though I believe I may have already said too much).

Do you think it is reasonable to deny a liquor license due to proximity to a rehabilitation center?

82 Comment

  • No. Also, this guy sounds like he is blowing smoke. Just my opinion, though. I don’t personally think he is a bad actor…he is just acting like one.

    • Heads up to anyone commenting on this blog as goes for PoP in general, this guy sounds like he has A LOT of free time on his hands:

      “Vaughn Bennett once put out flames as a District of Columbia firefighter, but the chess organizer has certainly created a firestorm with his last missive, a 49-page lawsuit against the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and 24 other defendants. The defendants include current and past USCF officials, chess organizations, tournament directors, a university and a number of private businesses. The amount of the lawsuit… a staggering US$150,000,000 (one hundred and fifty million American dollars).

      He states in the legal brief that the defendants committed “retaliatory acts that defamed him and violated the rights granted by the common law of the District of Columbia.” He further stated that the acts were “intentional, malicious, and gross; taken in conscious disregard of Plaintiff’s constitutional and civil rights.” These charges by Bennett are serious, but his legal charges may raise more questions than can be answered. His emotional appeal has a history that he says has extended over two decades, but reached a boiling point in the last four years.”

      • PoP-ville, what can we do to support this business and set an example that encourages other businesses to–yes, a crazy idea–want to set up businesses? Would exposing this entire process shed some light on how absolutely absurd this guy is acting to the detriment of “his” community? This city needs more entrepreneurs like the Menomale folks and we should do everything we can to support them in their endeavors. It’s unfortunate that small business owners like this get the shaft while those with deeper pockets like franchises and the larger restaurateurs (ie Richard Sandoval, Joe Englert, etc.) have enough clout and money to win similar battles.

  • Yes. Liquor licenses should only be issued in close proximity to elementary schools.

  • gotryit

    No, that doesn’t sound reasonable. People in rehab will learn to deal with temptation because it’s everywhere around them. Either that, or they will fail and relapse – but not because there’s a restaurant that serves liquor nearby.

    Oh, and “think of the children”?? Please. There are far worse things that our kids are going to see than a restaurant with sidewalk seating.

  • buy those in recovery some blilnders. like what horses wear. because they may encounter bars in other parts of the city. it is the minimum we can do to help them preserve hard one sobriety.

  • This guy really should find something to do. Why don’t we protect the children in this city from the DC school system instead?

  • I empathize with the rehab place.
    But I am amazed at how Brookland keeps finding ways to be hostile to development. I also sorta see the argument that patients/ clients will have to deal with proximity to alcohol. No one is putting a bar into the same bldg with rehab facility.

  • gotryit

    Don’t forget, in the same tone: ” Think of the poor regulations!”

  • Please!

    This is a secret, unidentified, unmappable “rehabilitation center” that so far has not filed a protest of any sort on their own, and that Bennett apparently didn’t know about until just a few days ago (by his own admission on Brookland and Ward 5 listservs.)

    Those listservs have been full of reasons for protest from prolific Ward 5ers with quotes like:

    “At Menomale we have young men also with dreams who are not DC people, who have no history in our community and who seem to be sailing through the process without objection from the public.”

    “The visual of youngsters observing the consumption of alcohol as they proceed home from school should give everyone pause. It’s too easy to say: “well if parents would instill proper values….” and wag the finger of blame. It’s another thing to step into the minset of working parents ad comprehend that youngsters take in cues from every bit of their environment, so the proximity of a bar/restaurant to a school is a matter of concern.”

    Apparently elementary school children will be stopping into the pizza place on their own as they walk home from school to buy a pie and a beer at 10 years old.

    Mr. Bennett’s update on Sunday that discussed his opposition ended with this oh-so-relevant nugget:

    “As you well know, our city and ward have undergone a culture of corruption that has created an atmosphere that ultimately caused us to, (currently), not have a Ward 5 Councilmember. In Florida we had an atmosphere that caused the death of Trayvon Martin. I mention these things because as I previously stated, we need to examine the source of the mentality, so we can become a healthier community.”

    Bennett’s most recent update ends with:

    “I can’t give you anymore details about the facility because we must protect the anonymity, privacy and sobriety of the men and women who are trying to change in order to save their lives.”

    Forget the fact that there are liquor stores up and down that stretch already, in which anyone can buy as many bottles as they can carry home.

    This is disgusting. That’s all there is to it. I have a feeling Bennett won’t survive his first term.

    • “This is disgusting. That’s all there is to it. I have a feeling Bennett won’t survive his first term.”

      This is how it should work. But I’ve lived here long enough to have little faith.

    • Trayvon Martin is so irrelevant in this case, it’s laughable. Pandering.

      • Sweet Jesus. We may soon need to supplant Godwin’s Law with Trayvon’s Law … I mean, What the f*** has anything got to do with Trayvon Martin? What the f*** are you talking about?

  • this is all a joke, District 5 gets all the pot shops, just allowed the Colonial Brooks development which is larger than it was zoned. there are already schools next to a mental health development center, a school for troubled DC public students, but a Pizza place can’t serve beer, because of people that have lost their ability to control their drinking, hahaha. Here’s an idea, any one from MD that has got a traffic ticket is not allowed to drive through Brookland to get home.

  • Isn’t there a rehab facility next door to Chief Ike’s in Adams Morgan?

  • no. this is an absolute mockery. the 400 foot law, is a law, so that must be respected. but this reason is pure bullshit.

    • exactly. if that’s the case, that should have been made clear to the owners long before they invested so much money into their business idea. it would have been a lot easier to find another location then.

      • Isn’t it the business’ job to do this? Who should have “made it clear” to them?

        • Allison

          It’s the business’ job to find out about a rehab center, to which no relevant (written) laws apply with respect to the liquor license, which also does not publish its location?

          • I agree that none of this makes sense, but I’m trying to figure out who “they” are that are supposed to inform the business of whatever situation might impede their license. The business has to do any necessary due diligence – no one else has a duty to inform the owners.

          • Allison

            That’s the point, there’s no due diligence to discover this rehab center necessary, because there’s no law, regulation, or ordinance on the point.

  • This is one reason why I feel ANC should be abolished. They have too much power. Here is a person who “feels” that a rehab place was located in a place to be far from taverns and will cause headaches for a person trying to establish a legal business. There are examples all over the city of ANC coercing alcohol serving business into “voluntary” agreements that limit their ability to do business. The ANCs don’t help on the rent payments but they are able to prevent an owner from earning as much as legally possible from his or her business.

    • gotryit

      ANCs are supposed to represent their communities. Your solution is to not have communities represented at all? How about fixing the ANC. Go out and vote in your ANC election – you’d be surprised how few people actually do.
      If the ANC commissioner is being a doofus, you can vote them out, or circumvent them (i.e., create a neighborhood group to protest or support the license at the ABRA hearing).
      I’m pretty happy with my commissioner and I’ll continue to advocate for her if she runs again. While the ANC as a whole doesn’t always represent exactly what I want, I think they do a good job of balancing the different views.

    • What a poorly-thought out “solution.” Let’s get rid of citizen-run oversight immunity bodies so businesses (who always do the right thing) can call the shots. Brilliant. Look, I think this ANC guy’s reasons are as laughable as everyone else. His post could have been run in the Onion. But your “destroy the village to save it” solution shows one reason why gentrifiers create such animosity among “Old Guard” types. After all , even through I would support this restaurant and I sympathize with the owners, some residents may not and someone has to represent their views (however invalid they might seem to you). After all, just because one moves into a neighborhood and seeks to “improve it” (a very subjective proposition), doesn’t mean that others’ views are unimportant or that the gentrifier is always right (a mind-blowing idea).

      • Sorry, “community” not “immunity.” Immunity for ANC folks would be a singularly bad idea.

      • This might be valid if long term residents were the ones holding the place from allowing alcohol. But they are not, it’s a Rehab center. Do people live there, are they long term rehab residents. This bringing up the gentrifier conversation vs older residents is almost as bad as bringing up T. Martin

        • Your credulity knows no bounds. Do you really think this is about a rehab center? It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines (and the listserv excerpts above to realize that all of the objections are smokescreens. I should have been more explicit, but I didn’t think I had to. If you don’t put in a better showing than that, the chess masters gonna school you.

          • The best quote yet:

            “So we are clear – most of this conversation is not about a sit down Pizza Parlor but the prejudicial attitude of support that was bestowed on it, as well as the Demands placed upon Vaughn Here we have ENDORSED these two wet behind the ears young young men from not here (meaning none of us knows them), while older, much wiser, much more experienced, much more established, much more love for the community, much more tied to the community, etc. residents of the District of Columbia are treated like STEP CHILDREN.”

  • I believe “won’t somebody PLEASE think of the CHILDREN!” is Mrs. Lovejoy’s line.

  • The timing of this objection is a little dubious. @Chrisb’s comment about Chief Ike’s is correct, and should probably put this objection to rest.

  • “Do you think it is reasonable to deny a liquor license due to proximity to a rehabilitation center?”

    100%, yes.

    • here! here! any notion of personal responsibility is the work of the devil!

    • I’m not saying I agree with everything he’s saying, but I do feel the need to stick up for the rehab center.

      Addiction–alcoholism included–is a disease. Yes, those in rehab will need to learn to deal with alcohol in a day-to-day setting, BUT at least give them respite while they get through the worst of it. Especially if it’s providing the first 28 day/detox phase. That’s why people GO to rehab–to get away from their current surroundings and temptations.

      Back when Central Union Mission was trying to move to George Ave, everyone cried “NIMBY!” Now the same thing is happening, even though the rehab center is already established and, basically, was “there first”.

  • Does alcohol really have such strong of a scent that you can smell it from the sidewalk? 😉

  • Can I point out that schol can not even be seen from Menomale, the closest entrance is over a city block away around a corner and the main entrance is over 2.5 blocks from the restaurant. If there is a rehab center in that medical building, it should have no bearing. As noted previously there is alcohol in the world, these people will have to learn how to deal with tempatation.

  • In Mary World, any time someone uses “think of the children!” as an argument they are suddenly lifted from the earth and all previous arguments they’ve made disappear. They can come back once the matter has been decided by more reasonable people.

    Drinking alcohol is legal and a large part of American culture. That is one thing that recovering alcoholics have to deal with in maintaining their sobriety. They don’t just have cravings when they’re going to/from the rehab center, so the placement of a restaurant shouldn’t matter.

  • Ridiculous. The argument to deny a license is petty and too shallow to be taken seriously.

  • So Mr Bennett is equating the people in rehab with schoolcildren? That’s a great attitude.

    If you’re going to worry about the rehab folks walking past this establishment, then you’re going to have to worry about every single similar establishment on their way home, to work, and to where ever else they may decide to go. And what about thier homes – should we close restaurants and liquor stores near these folks’ homes? This is all just more of the same type of shenanigans that always goes on with Mr Bennett in particular, and with the ridiculous alcohol licensing process in this city generally.

    • +1. You can walk two blocks any direction along RI Ave. and step into a liquor store.

      • Allison

        Yeah, I think a liquor store would conceptually be a far worse problem for proximity to a rehab center than a pizza shop serving craft beer. A hardcore alcoholic falling off the wagon is more likely to buy something hard and go drink it at home than spend a whole bunch of money at a pizza shop on beer.

  • Allison

    Alcoholism is a serious disease and those healing from it deserve the support of the community within reason.

    That said, isn’t there an old joke about the donut shop right next to the weight watchers facility in New York?

    For the community’s relevant amusement:

  • No. It’s important that this community begin to encourage and support Menomale, and other establishments like it. I hope I have the opportunity to become a regular.

  • What is the address of the alcohol and rehab center?

    • Apaprently that is a secret.

      I am being completely serious here, Bennett won’t tell anyone becuase he says they wish to remain anonymous. I would presume at some point if the protest is to go on they would have to disclose that, but as of now no one but him knows.

      • Amazing.

      • This is the rehab center (or at least one nearby that I believe may be the issue): I feel somewhat conflicted about posting this info, but if they are lodging a complaint, people have the right to know who is making these claims.

        Right on the corner of 10th and Rhode Island. On the same block as a liquor store. It’s nearly 500 feet away (straight line distance) and 3 city blocks walking. Not next door or even on the same block or street.

        Every go by that place? It’s a prime piece of real estate with outdoor seating on a potential commercial strip. It’s got tarps up around the fence and all the windows blacked out, and no visible signage.

        I firmly believe that in the city, you are not entitled to a buffer from the rest of the world. Living in a city is about neighborhoods, and interacting with both good and bad neighbors. If you’re looking for isolation for treatment, a busy street near a metro is not a good place to find it. I understand alcoholics need a place for treatment, but for the rest of us life goes on. I would like to enjoy a pizza not served through bulletproof glass and yes, on occasion, a draft beer responsibily. There’s a demand in Brookland and the surrounding areas to support a place like this.

        If Mr. Bennett really wants to represent the best interests of his community, a business that has played by the rules (at least to public knowledge) and believes in the potential of Brookland should be a great asset to the area. I wish the Menomale folks the best as they would be a welcome addition to our part of town.

        • Its been discussed on the Brookland Listserve and confirmed by Bennett that this is not the rehab center in question. The metropolis club is about 4 blocks away and two doors down from a liquor store. The one in question is secret and Bennett claimes he only became aware of its existence a couple of days ago.

        • This better not be the place Bennett is referring too. This place is a dump and a huge eyesore.

          Go by this place was look at the patrons there. All leaning against no smoking signs passing smokes to each other.

          Here’s whats going in in my head… A pizza place that serves beer is not allowed near a school. But a place for recovering Drug and alcohol addicts is. hahah now that makes sense. I definitely would be more worried about someone eating some pizza and having a drink thank the person who is recovering from a drug addiction walking by my children.

          Maybe Menomole should offer the rehab a 5,000 dollar landscape reno, should be fine then

  • If anything, I feel like seeing adults casually drinking high-quality craft beer with their dinner would be a good model of mature, responsible enjoyment of alcohol for any children who happen to pass by. I have a feeling that this place will cater towards people who drink because they appreciate decent beer, not random drunks who want to get trashed. I’d rather have this nearby than a liquor store selling cheap liquor by the handle.

    • “High-quality craft beer?” Are you for real?

      What a smug load of twattle.

      • Actually, they do plan on having a lot of craftbeer, currently about 20 taps in place for a nice list of drafts, and will also carry bottles and cans. I’ve seen their set up, a full walk-in fridge ready to go. This is very timely, considering the beer revolution happening in the city. One of the partners is Cicerone certified as well, and has a long history with craftbeer (including brewing his own homebrew). I know they also plan on carrying some of the local brews.

    • You’re getting close to the class and anti-gentrification issues that are most likely at the heart of this matter.

  • No.
    By that logic if there is a Weight Watchers all junk food/fast food would have to be located blocks away.
    The Westside Club in Georgetown (which supports sobriety) is on Wisconsin – surrounded by bars.
    Friends and family that are secure in their sobriety walk by restaurants and bars – and stay sober. Heck, they even go into bars and restaurants.

    Oh and the smell of booze? Its a restaurant not a brewery.

  • Vaughn Bennett you are a joke get out of the way.

  • I don’t think there’s any legitimate worries over children and/or rehabilitation patients being near a pizzeria that serves beer and wine to over 21 year old customers. Just doesn’t seem like much of an issue to me. There are much bigger dangers to the children of this city out there, criminals, bullying from peers, poor schools, etc.

  • This is completely ridiculous. An unnamed “anonymous” rehab facility? WTH? How do we even know it’s real?

    And secondly, I would think the community needs the revenue that new small businesses create.

  • Once again, Ward 5 proves its relationship to DC politics is like that of your cranky uncle who doesn’t believe the moon landings actually occurred, or that President Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen: paranoid, ignorant, superstitious, ill-informed, and utterly unreasonable. In short: an embarrassment. I don’t understand why we’ve invaded other countries under the auspices of their lack of self governance when we (and I’m a Ward 5 resident) can barely govern ourselves.

  • Rehab centers shouldn’t be allowed to operate near bars.

  • Honest questions: Is the ABRA regulation regarding tavern licenses being 400 feet from a school legit? If so, how does Wonderland circumvent it (since it’s across the street from Tubman Elementary)? Do they have a restaurant license? And is Menomale applying for a tavern or restaurant liquor license?

  • Just to clear up some confusion about the proximity to a school/rehabilitation center issues:

    YES, per DC Code a restaurant can be located within 400 feet of a school.

    ALSO, per DC Code, none of the proximity restrictions apply if the area is zoned commercial–the Menomale space is zoned C-1, and thus, it can be located within 400 feet of a school.

    There are NO restrictions on proximity to a rehabilitation center.

    Here are the relevant portions of Section 25-314 of the DC Code:

    (b)(1) No license shall be issued for any establishment within 400 feet of a public, private, or parochial primary, elementary, or high school; college or university; or recreation area operated by the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, except as provided in
    paragraphs (2) through (5) of this subsection.

    (2) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to a restaurant, hotel, club, caterer’s, or temporary license.

    (3) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply if there exists within 400 feet a
    currently-functioning establishment.

    [skipping non-relevant items]

    (4) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply if:

    (D) The establishment is located in a C-l, C-2, C-3, C-4, or C-5 zone;

  • Stupidest thing I’ve read in quite some time. This guy should have been fired along with Thomas, Jr. District five needs a wake up call. Do you hear me district 5? This district 5 resident is watching you!

  • I am going to weigh in on PoP’s question:
    “Do you think it is reasonable to deny a liquor license due to proximity to a rehabilitation center?”

    Yes, I do.

  • On of the largest rehab facilities in the region, Kolmac, has a center at 14th and K right above, next to and across the street from bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

    One of the skills you learn in rehab is how to avoid the temptation since alcohol will always be around.

  • Absolutely no liquor licenses near re-hab facilities! Aslo no libraries near where stupid people live, mirror stores near ugly people or chain saw stores near massacre-ers! (Sp?)

  • All of this will be even more interesting in the years to go. With some of the new mixed use developments that are planned for Ward 5, the alcohol issue will apparently be a constant discussion. The Market on Monroe is next to and across the street from Catholic University. Monroe 901 is down the street from private & public schools. Fort Totten Square & The Art Place at Fort Totten are near Comm College of DC and elementary schools as well. I’m sure these developments will want restaurants to be included, so will they all be dry?

    The irony is that at all of these places, there are also liquor stores nearby. Thinking about the intersection of Riggs & South Dakota, there are two. Where there are plans for the new Brookland Elementary, there is one across the street, and multiple right up 12th. So why aren’t those places closed then to enforce these laws?

    Ward 5 currently is pretty barren when it comes to nice establishments. Where we live in Ward 5, we have a Walkscore ( of 30. This is 97% lower than the rest of DC. We can’t wait for places like Menomale to increase the quality of living in our area. In addition, establishments like this will bring residents (and potential other businesses) of other wards into the area to do business.

  • “Can you imagine the impact that the daily scent of alcohol (Menomale seeks an alcohol serving sidewalk cafe) would have on a recovering alcoholic who is just trying to get home after work?”

    So it’s an in-patient treatment center? Don’t those have to be licensed/permitted/zoned?

  • We have choices. There is more than one street that can be walked. If people can’t bare the beer, they can walk another street. Vaughn Bennett need to stop sharing half truth to lies….

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