City Paper Widget

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WeWork's Liquor License: "I Didn't Realize It Was a Big Deal until the Police Came In"

A DC branch of WeWork, located in the Wonder Bread Factory (641 S Street NW), has gotten endorsement of both permanent and temporary liquor licenses  from the liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street.

641 S Street in November 2013
The committee also voted to draft a letter to DC's liquor-licensing authorities stating that the ANC does not believe WeWork actually needs a liquor license. Whether WeWork actually needs a liquor license is the subject of a separate blog post today here.

The decisions occurred at the most recent committee meeting on January 21.

WeWork is a New York-based start-up that "creates collaborative co-working communities". It has branches in 13 cities in four countries. According to, the company "takes out a cut-rate lease on a floor or two of an office building, chops it up into smaller parcels and then charges monthly memberships to startups and small companies that want to work cheek-by-jowl with each other." A report in said the company was valued at $5 billion.

At the January 21 meeting, Carl Pierre, head of DC Operations for WeWork, called the company a "shared office space collaborative environment". It supplies to tenants, as part of their leases, a shared kitchen stocked with water, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and beer, at no additional charge. The beer is sometimes deployed to lubricate "speed business coaching" and computer coding sessions, but is locked up at 10pm.

WeWork operated in this matter until they were visited by the enforcement division of DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

"I didn't realize it was a big deal until the police came in," Pierre said.

The committee held a single vote that recommended to the full ANC that they endorse both a stipulated liquor license and a permanent liquor license for WeWork. The vote was nine in favor, one against, one abstention.

A stipulated liquor license, explained here, is one of the few acts which an ANC can take on its own authority. If the ANC approves a stipulated license (and if there are no other objecting parties), then an establishment can start serving alcohol immediately after the payment of a $100 fee to ABRA, while the establishment's paperwork for a permanent license works its way through normal channels.

The full ANC will probably consider endorsement both the stipulated liquor license and the permanent license at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, February 5, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

However, as explained in a today's other blog post, it is possible that WeWork does not actually need a liquor license, in which case the time and money Pierre and others at WeWork spent engaging consultants, visiting the ANC committee meeting, etc., will have been unnecessary. 

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