City Paper Widget

Friday, March 20, 2015

Problem Liquor Stores at 14th and U and in Columbia Heights Seek Liquor License Renewal

This is the second of two articles published today about renewals of liquor store licenses -- more specifically, about the renewals that the liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street discussed at its March 18 meeting. All DC liquor stores have until the end of March to file applications to renew their Class A liquor licenses.

Many of the applications seemed routine and generated little or no discussion. The two cases below were exceptions.

Bestway Liquors

The owner of Bestway Liquors (2011 14th Street) attended the meeting and reported that his mandatory placard about the renewal application has been up in the window of his store for about a week. Commissioner John Green (district 12 -- also the location of Bestway Liquors) reported "positive and negative remarks" via email about the store. He read the emails to the meeting about the store, which is located on the east side of 14th Street just north of U Street. Some emails said the store "attracts unsavory people", that there were "people loitering", and "drunks passed out" in front of the store.

Bestway Liquors and placard on March 19
The owner of the store said he tried to do everything possible to limit people from congregating in front of his store, but the space was after all a public sidewalk as well as a bus stop. He said it was particularly difficult to get people to clear out of the bus stop, which had a bench. Police had told him not to shoo people away from the store -- he should call the police, because anything on the sidewalk was police responsibility.

The owner and his attorney showed the ANC several "certificates of compliance", which is what liquor stores get when DC authorities attempt a "sting" to get the store to sell liquor to underage or obviously drunk patrons, and the store (complying with the law) refuses to do so. The owner also showed several "barring notices" -- official documents that allow an owner to refuse to sell to specific individuals who have been a problem. On some occasions, the owner says he observes, on the store's security cameras, barred individuals sitting at the bus stop persuading others to buy liquor on their behalf. When the owner sees this, he said, he refuses the sale.

The owner also said he does not sell malt liquor or "singles".

A police officer at the committee meeting said the MPD had a new additional police officer assigned to that stretch of U Street and hoped the officer would reduce the problems in front of Bestway Liquors.

The committee voted to take no action. If there are no official complaints to DC's liquor-licensing authorities, the store will probably have its license renewed.

Fairmont Liquors

"It draws a huge crowd of Howard students," said one committee member of Fairmont Liquors (2633 Sherman Avenue).

"They come in six, seven, ten at a time," the owner of Fairmont Liquors told the committee.

(Google Street View)
The committee noted three cases of selling liquor to minors. In November 2014, Fairmont Liquors was fined $8000 and ordered closed for 15 days for selling to underaged individuals who were probably Howard students -- see SALM blog post of December 9, 2014.

"The problem is a fake ID," the owner said. "They [meaning, the ID cards] come from many states, not just Virginia, Maryland, but Alaska, many states."

The owner told the committee he had gotten a booklet from DC's liquor-licensing authorities to help him distinguish genuine out-of-state IDs from not-so-genuine.

"We need to take a serious look at the record," said ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 08). Turner noted there were occasions when there was no ID check.

"Is that a good community neighborhood establishment?" Turner said.

During the discussion it was also noted there had been a homicide at the liquor store sometime during the last three years. However, the homicide was unconnected with the store, except for the fact that it took place there, and no one suggested the owner was in any way culpable.

A member of the committee asked if the establishment had security camera. The owner said he had one inside camera and was planning four cameras outside.

The liquor license renewal application for Fairmont Liquors has not started its placarding period yet, so there was no vote at the meeting. The committee expects to take up the case at its next meeting. The owner was advised to prepare as much as possible in order to make a strong case for renewal when he comes before the committee.

Many other liquor stores in the area between U Street and Columbia Heights are coming up for renewal -- see the bottom of today's other post for a list.

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