City Paper Widget

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tale of Two U Street Liquor Stores: One Approved, One Not

The cases of two U Street liquor stores came up at the regular monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on September 4. The locations are one block from each. Each sought an endorsement for a liquor license. One sailed through the ANC without a problem. The other did not.

Gallagher and Graham's future home
Eleven Market's present home
The first case discussed was that of Gallagher and Graham Fine Spirits (1939 12th Street NW) -- previously reported in the SALM blog post of July 17. The second case was that of Eleven Market (1936 11th Street), which proposes to change its name to U Street Wine and Liquor -- see SALM blog post of June 24.

Both will require a Class A liquor license, which allows liquor stores to sell wine, beer, and hard liquor.

Gallagher and Graham Fine Spirits is named after the cousins who will be the joint proprietors. Tucker Gallagher, one of the aspiring proprietors, spoke briefly to the ANC at the meeting. The proprietors have already reached a settlement agreement with the ANC through its liquor-licensing affairs committee. Settlement agreements normally deal with such matters as store opening hours, sanitation, noise, and security. The discussion of the matter was brief. The ANC unanimously voted to approve the settlement agreement as negotiated and endorse the request for a liquor-license.

The case of Eleven Market generated more discussion. Eleven Market has operated in the neighborhood for 15 years with a Class B liquor license, which allows it to see wine and beer. It wants to have a Class A license instead.

The proprietor of the establishment was present as were several members of the community who opposed the license. ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) said he had received numerous emails both supporting the license and expressing concern about it. Jeff Jackson, a former investigator for the DC liquor-licensing authorities, represented the owners.

There had been some difficulty negotiating a new settlement agreement for the establishment. At the outset of the negotiations, the proprietor agreed to a clause in the agreement that prohibits the sale of malt liquor and single cans of beer. Since then, the proprietor also agreed to improve the appearance of the front of the building, including planters in the front courtyard (see photo above), with the intended effect of decreasing loitering in front of the liquor store.

Turner mentioned that the ban of sales of single cans of beer in much of the city (but not in Ward 1, where Eleven Market is located) had caused the appearance of "doubles", that is, two cans of beer sold together. Jackson said the store was not planning to sell doubles.

"Is it fair to say you're moving to a more upscale liquor store?" asked Turner.

"Yes," Jackson replied.

Nick Baumann, chair of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee, reported on the progress of talks with Eleven Market. Negotiations on a settlement agreement had begun, but not all the details had been nailed down. Some of the wording in connection with the nature of the improvement to the front courtyard was vague. The agreement said the improvements should be "satisfactory" -- what did that mean exactly?

"The definition of 'satisfactory' is up to you folks," Baumann said, meaning members of the ANC. He urged elected Commissioners to get more involved in the negotiation, but no one present seemed willing to volunteer to take the lead.

Some members of the audience urged the ANC officially protest the application until a settlement agreement was signed.

Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) made a motion that the ANC accept the settlement agreement in its current form, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05) made a motion that the ANC protest the application for a liquor license conversion on the basis of peace, order, and quiet. It was second, and the motion passed, 7-1, with Holness the vote against.

According to a notice here, Eleven Market will have an initial hearing before DC liquor-licensing authorities on September 29. The offices are located at the Reeves Center (14th and U Street).

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