City Paper Widget

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Shaw ANC Tries to Solve Persistent Liquor-Licensing Problem

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw is trying to develop a solution to a chronic city-wide liquor-licensing problem. The problem is: restaurants "morphing" into nightclubs late in the evenings, meaning, restaurant proprietors clear away the tables, turn up on the music, and serve mostly or completely alcohol into the wee hours of the morning. Fear of these stealth nightclubs is what drives many objectors to restaurant-category liquor licenses -- see, for example, the May 16, 2014, SALM blog post about a proposed Florida Avenue establishment.

(photo credit below)
In response, ANC6E, with the help of the liquor-licensing lawyers they deal with, has developed a new template for settlement agreements between the ANC and restaurant proprietors. These agreements often dictate to what hours a liquor licensee may operate, as well as where and when they can feature live or recorded music.

The ANC6E template allows the counter-parties to these agreements to feature live music on a limited number of occasions. They may have live music at all weekend brunches and New Year's Eve. In addition, they are allowed twelve private parties with live music every year. After that, they are allowed six further instances of private parties every year which must be applied for as a "one-day substantial change" to the liquor license at DC's liquor-licensing authorities.

DC liquor-licensing rules limit the number of one-day substantial changes for an establishment to six per year. They involve additional paperwork, often notarized, to file with DC liquor-licensing authorities, as well as an additional fee of up to $300 per instance, all of which is probably a sufficient deterrent to filing for one unless absolutely needed.

The advantages seem to be: the restaurants have the flexibility to feature music late weekend mornings (when late-night noise and rowdy behavior is not an issue) and host a limited number of wedding-related events, office parties, etc., without having to petition the ANC for each event. On the other hand, the ANC gets a guarantee that late-night music and dancing will not be a regular occurrence.

Most recently, ANC6E used this template to come to a settlement agreement with, and endorse the liquor license of, Ottoman Taverna (425 I Street NW, at the corner of 4th and I Streets). The endorsement came at ANC6E's last regularly-scheduled meeting on March 3. Attorney Steve O'Brien of Mallios & O'Brien represented the applicant and said that the existing template made it much easier to negotiate the new agreement.

"It took me three minutes to prepare this version," O'Brien said.

O'Brien also told the ANC the new establishment would have inside seating for 166 and planned a sidewalk cafe with a capacity of 74. Service would continue until 2am weekdays and 3am weekends inside, and 11pm weekdays and midnight weekends outside. There would be no recorded music outdoors.

ANC6E's liquor-licensing affairs committee had review and recommended approval of the settlement agreement and endorsement of the liquor-licensing application, and the full ANC voted unanimously in favor, with one abstention.

Ottoman Taverna will be the third establishment in the same block by restauranteur Hakan Ilhan, joining Alba Osteria (also 425 I Street NW) and L'Hommage (450 K Street). L'Hommage received its liquor license endorsement and signed a settlement agreement with ANC6E last month based on the same template -- see SALM blog post of February 12.

(photo credit: from Labelled for reuse on Google Images.)

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