ABC Board to Decide Future of East Dupont Circle Moratorium Nov. 20

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Photo by PoPville flickr user NCinDC

From a press release:

What/Who:       The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (Board) will decide the future of the East Dupont Circle Moratorium at a public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Members of the media and public are welcome to attend.
When:                  1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 20
Where:                Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center
Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Hearing Room
2000 14th Street, NW, Suite 400 S., 4th floor

Background:       The Board is considering two proposals in addition to public comment received on the issue at a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 24. The first proposal was from Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B, which recommended renewing the existing moratorium for another three-year period with significant modifications. A second proposal from the Dupont Circle Citizens Association suggested conducting further research on the issue.

The East Dupont Circle Moratorium Zone currently limits the number of alcoholic beverage licenses that can be issued in an area extending approximately 600 feet in all directions from the intersection of 17th and Q streets, NW to the following:

  • Two licenses to retailers to sell liquor, wine and beer;
  • Two licenses to retailers to sell wine and beer;
  • Two licenses to taverns;
  • Sixteen licenses to restaurants;
  • No licenses to nightclubs; and
  • No licenses to multipurpose facilities.

All hotels are exempt from the terms of the moratorium zone. More details may be reviewed in DC Municipal Regulations Title 23 Section 307.”

Ed. Note: In early Oct. the proposed 14th and U Street Corridor Liquor License Moratorium was Denied by the ABC Board.

46 Comment

  • I guess Cobalt considered a “tavern” then?

    • I wonder if Cobalt falls within the 600 feet. If so, probably just barely. Maybe because of Levelone, it falls under the restaurant license.

      I guess this explains why no new nightclub opened up in the old Chaos space. Granted, nothing much has used that space in the 8 years since Chaos closed. Which just further emphasizes the need for a change to the moratorium restrictions.

  • This is one of the nicest neighborhood’s in the city. It would be nice to add a couple new bars/restaurants.

  • There are already lots and lots of bars and restaurants in this area. I would really hate to see its character change, but it seems inevitable that every commercial strip in town be filled only with mediocre restaurants and overpriced bars.

    • If you want more diverse retail, there’s a very simple solution: change zoning to allow more retail. More retail = lower retail rents = more diverse selection of retail establishments.

      • It doesn’t need to be anything more than it is today. It’s a very nice, historic and diverse mix of retail, residential, bars and restaurants.

        • And what happens when it changes?

          • Keeping the moratorium makes it less likely to change, and it’s perfect the way it is, so there.

            What’s more, we’re already seeing right now that changing zoning is basically impossible, so keeping the moratorium is doing what is actually possible.

          • Of course it will change! That strip is very different from what it was even twenty years ago, let alone 40 or 60 or more, because the neighborhood changed around it. That’s the nature of cities, they change rapidly. The neighborhood, and the surrounding neighborhoods, have gained a lot of population, and the associated commercial strip has to change with it to meet demand.

          • It will change, but ending the moratorium guarantees it will change for the worse, becoming as boring as 14th Street is now where everything is another idiotic restaurant or bar. And no, it doesn’t have to change with it to meet demand — it might, but it doesn’t have to.

          • “Everything is another idiotic restaurant or bar” on 14th street? The owners of Pulp, Redeem, Lou Lou, Universal Gear, Mitchell Gold, Miss Pixies, and Buffalo Exchange may beg to differ. Not to mention the fantastic hardware store around the corner, and the two bike shops. 14th Street is living proof that more retail spaces lead to more retail diversity.

          • 14th Street is boring and idiotic? Wow. Now I’ve heard everything. 14th Street has a ton of retail. And yes, some of the best new restaurants in the city.

            But there isn’t THAT much retail on 17th anyway. The Safeway and the CVS would never become bars, so what would 17th Street really lose? An overpriced framing place? A shoe repair? Those seem like pretty innocuous casualties.

            In fact, there’s currently several empty storefronts, as far as I can see–why not let them become bars? The only reason 17th Street is doing as well as it is is because it’s a gay bar destination–people aren’t coming just for Trio’s defrosted chicken nuggets, let me tell you.

        • Retail? The liquor store, McDonald’s and Safeway? Wow, very nice.

          • There’s a couple of art/framing shops, a small bank, a real estate office, a pretty nice hardware store, housewares shop, shoe repair, optometrist, specialty pharmacy, a frozen yogurt store I like a lot, a couple of cleaners, and that’s just off the top of my head. You know, things that normal people in the neighborhood can use, not just a bunch of restaurants for trust-fund 20somethings and suburbanite date nights.

    • There are? Where?

      I think if you want to see the impact of the moratorium, just look at how 14th Street developed versus 17th Street. Arguably 17th Street is a more ideal location for all of the great restaurants that are open now on 14th. 17th provides options for greater patio/outdoor space with more sidewalk appeal than 14th Street and 17th Street is a less congested one way road. Yet all the development went three blocks East. Now you have a lot of (great, but old) restaurants. Agora is what, the third iteration of a restaurant in that space in 8 years? And many of those spots are dead on a weeknight. DIK, Ultimo (mostly b/c it sucks), Agora, etc. Compare the traffic at those places on a Tuesday to the traffic on the 14th Street stretch of restaurants.

      Maybe the solution is not to open it up completely, but loosen the restrictions a little. Hank’s is a clear example of a great restaurant that is extremely popular and itself has struggled with the neighbors to make itself at home in that space. It’s a shame to see all the money and development go over to 14th Street. There’s no reason a few new restaurants couldn’t find a great home on 17th Street. Of course if I was considering opening a restaurant and had any knowledge of the hassles the owners of Hank’s have had, I probably wouldn’t go near 17th Street anyway.

      • The reason 17th Street is so nice is because it hasn’t become a wasteland of restaurant after restaurant after restaurant like 14th Street. There are actually other kinds of places on 17th Street! Even a supermarket so you can cook for yourself instead of wasting all your money on ridiculous restaurants!

        • I guess you and I have very different views of nice. Floriana’s and Hank’s are arguably great restaurants. Komi and Little Serow are obviously great, but impossible for most people to eat at on a regular basis. The rest are fine, but nothing to write home about. Annie’s a wonderful historic haunt that everyone loves. But the rest are nothing compared to what is on 14th Street. And the only retail on 17th is a liquor store, the Safeway, a McDonald’s, a CVS, and several dry cleaners.

          Like I said, no one is saying open this up to the boom of 14th Street. But I question whether the owner of Hank’s (arguably one of the more successful recent additions to 17th Street) would do that over again if given the option.

        • justinbc

          There’s also a grocery store on 14th St (Whole Foods) and soon to be another (Trader Joes).

          • And a gym, and fast food, and banks, an art gallery, a bike shop, etc. etc. This commenter seems to think that these places all exist in a vacuum. The more interesting restaurants you have to draw people in, the more likely these other retail shops are to make a home there. Meanwhile there are several empty storefronts on 17th Street and several retailers that if they were to disappear, would not likely be replaced quickly.

          • There’s no Whole Foods on 14th Street.

          • justinbc

            @iaom, technically you are correct, but that doesn’t prevent the benefit from being applied to all 14th Street residents who can manage to walk the 200 yards away from the curb.

        • You mean the worst supermarket in DC? That Safeway is atrocious. Rotting produce, empty shelves, prices as high as Whole Foods.

          • justinbc

            +1, it’s the worst grocery store I’ve ever set foot in. When I used to have to go there it was only because I needed something specifically not sold at Whole Foods.

          • I live two blocks from that Safeway and use Peapod. I’d rather pay more to never step foot in that dump.

      • justinbc

        For a moment, let’s assume there was no moratorium impacting 17th Street. Where would you propose these imaginary restaurants go? Buy up the extremely expensive rowhouses and convert them? It’s much more economical to do it on 14th Street when a huge portion of the street was nothing but gutted shells just a few years ago. Add to that the possibility of all the high rise development on 14th Street, with a huge built-in clientele unavailable to 17th Street, and it made even more sense. I think 17th Street is remarkably charming, but let’s not pretend it’s some glorious destination full of open building opportunities that are just being missed out on.

        • I think Hank’s a good example of why you are wrong.

        • Also, it’s easy to keep crappy restaurants on the street when their license is where their value is. Ultimo can suck and frankly on one can afford to replace it because the license makes it an expensive sell when in reality it shouldn’t be. I have no idea how that place stays open frankly. I don’t think the moratorium is the only issue facing 17th Street.

          Frankly it is all probably too late. The new exciting stuff is east and all moving east. Along with most of the people. If I wanted to open a restaurant or bar today, I doubt I’d look at 17th Street anyway.

          I just think as popular as the patio locations are on 17th Street on a nice day, there’s a market there for more great space that is being underserved by either crappy food or restrictive neighbors.

          • Every commercial strip doesn’t need to turn into expensive/mediocre restaurant overload like 14th Street has. Like others have said, 17th has a very nice balance that has existed for years.

          • justinbc

            I too wish there were BETTER restaurants on 17th Street, but they would have to take the place of the current restaurants that already exist. Again, assuming there was no moratorium, where exactly would you propose these new restaurants build?

  • I would love to see better restaurants / bars on 17th street. Floriana, Agora, Hanks and now Dukes are very good, but Trio, DIK, Cantina are crappy places with crappy waiters

    • No way, Trio’s is awesome. Much of the staff has been there forever, and the food has always been consistently good.

      • Trio’s food is garbage. And I say that a boozehound who loves to drink at Trio’s and Fox & Hound’s.

        • Agreed on the food. Blech. And I too love to booze it up at Fox & Hounds. But I’m not going there for the food.

          I just feel 17th Street is a relic of a former time that is quickly being left behind. There is no reason it can’t be filled out with a few more nice restaurants and bars with a relaxed moratorium that still one dramatically change the dynamic of the neighborhood.

      • justinbc

        You might be the only person I’ve ever heard describe Trio’s food as “awesome”. For most other people I know it exists solely to take up room in their stomach so that they don’t get too intoxicated too quickly.

        • Or very old people. I will say I am often surprised by how many people are sitting at Trio’s eating. But I chalk that up to the fact it is a nice spot to sit and eat. If you go inside, it is usually dead, so I can’t believe it is the food. If you’re interested in that kind of food, I can’t see why you’d eat there before Annie’s.

        • I didn’t describe the food at Trio’s as “awesome.” For most other people I know, there is a big difference between “awesome” and “consistently good.” Reading comprehension!!!

  • So where would these new restaurants go exactly? Also, what’s this about a Trader Joe’s on 17th? Isn’t it supposed to be at 14th and U?

  • If there were MORE licenses for restaurants allowed, then some of the real estate on 17th Street that could otherwise be converted to a restaurant might actually do so (like Hank’s or Floriana’s did years ago). But when the license allowance is limited, Ultimo can charge a fortune for anyone to take over that space. Between that and dealing with the nagging neighbors, who the heck would want to do that?

    Leeds somehow figured it out. But it cost her a fortune.

  • justinbc

    And that proves me “wrong” how…? Why on Earth would any restaurant want to put up with that kind of NIMBY crap when they can buy an empty shell on 14th Street and do whatever they want with it?

  • I think your argument that the moratorium doesn’t matter. There are valid reasons it does matter. The NIMBY issue is certainly another item of contention, but there are plenty of places on 14th Street that have faced similar issues. The moratorium is just adding another unnecessary obstacle. I think Hank’s shows that when the moratorium rules are loosened and an opportunity to open something in an unconventional space is provided, there is a market for it. Leeds managed to defeat the other issues (at a high cost). But the neighborhood is arguably better for having Hank’s there.

    I’m not really disagreeing with you about the other issues like NIMBY. But loosening the moratorium rules eliminates the need for dealing with the neighbors as much.

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