City Paper Widget

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Questions about Outdoor Seating for All Souls Bar

CORRECTION: Someone wrote to me that the "neighbor" mentioned below does not actually live in the neighborhood. Whenever he is referred to as "neighbor" in the text below, I changed it to "man". Apologies for the error.

David Batista, owner/operator of All Souls Bar (725 T Street NW), with his attorney Andrew Klein of Veritas Law Firm, appeared at last meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on March 18. They wanted to talk about the details of proposed outdoor seating at the corner of T and 8th Streets. They had artist's renderings already on set up on easels, ready to show the committee. But the papers covering the drawings were never removed, and the committee never saw them, as neighbors once again were there to object.

All Souls Bar (grey building left) wants to serve here
"Not much has changed since the last meeting," said committee chair Nick
Baumann. The only development, Baumann said, was that he had received about eight emails total on the topic -- some for, some against.

All Souls Bar has not officially applied to DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for permission to serve outdoors. The ANC has taken on the task of trying to negotiate between the parties.

ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09) urged all parties to try to arrive at a durable solution.

"Everybody wants a patio, a roof deck, a pop up, a pop out, a shoot out," Turner said in exasperation. Turner told both sides the ANC wanted "something we're not going to get a noise complaint about later".

The discussions at the meeting generated two questions...

Was the decision to allow the bar to open illegal?

"ABRA put a bar there even though there is a law against it," said one of the neighbors man about a 2012 decision (13-page .pdf here) that allowed All Souls to open.

Attorney Klein said: "I would suggest that he [the neighbor man] familiarize himself with the law." Klein sarcastically referred to this neighbor man as "the gentleman from Montgomery County".

The law the neighbor man refers to is a DC law forbidding issuance of liquor licenses to establishments within 400 feet of a school -- in this case, the Cleveland Elementary School (1825 18th Street), which is across T Street.

The neighbor man would be wise to take the attorney's advice about familiarity with the law. As this Greater Greater Washington blog post explains, ABRA found the prohibition against a liquor licensee within 400 feet of a public school did not apply in this case, since there was already another licensee (an Ethiopian market/restaurant on 7th Street) operating within 400 feet. This stipulation is clearly laid out in the law -- see DC Code §25-314(b) here.

The neighbor man could, perhaps more accurately, state that enforcement of the spirit of the law -- to protect schoolchildren from seeing and interacting with drunk patrons -- had been violated over a technicality. The Ethopian market/restaurant on 7th Street is around the corner and out of sight of the school, therefore drinking there not a matter of immediate concern to parents. The tavern, on the other hand, is across the street, clearly visible from the school.

However, this argument also is unlikely to gain traction in this case for two reasons: (1) All Souls is committed to operating only outside of school hours, and (2) ABRA's 2012 decision clearly states it is not in the business of shielding children's eyes from seeing establishments where liquor is served.

What's the law on outdoor service near schools?

Rule 23-302.5 of DC Municipal Regulation (available for download here) says
No alcoholic beverage shall be sold or served by a licensee upon any portion of any premises which fronts upon, abuts, adjoins, or is opposite to the premises of any of the institutions or recreation areas mentioned in this section unless that portion of the premises where alcoholic beverages are served is within a building; provided, that the restriction of service within a building is not applicable to Class C or D licensees on non-school days, weekends, and after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, allowing alcohol products to be served on licensed outdoor patios which are part of the licensee's premises.
All Souls Bar is a class C licensee, so service after 6pm school days, and longer hours on other days, is possible, according to the regulations. So neighbors of the bar will probably make a case for denying outdoor service on the basis of "peace, order and quiet" -- this being the most frequently used language when neighbors oppose a liquor license.

All Souls Bar is located in ANC1B district 01 -- Brian Footer is the Commissioner. It is also borders on district 02 -- Ellen Nedrow Sullivan is the Commissioner. These two will have the task of trying to bring the sides together. Sullivan is on the liquor licensing affairs committee and said she was planning to start meetings with a protesting neighbor in the week following the meeting.

No vote was taken on any aspect of this proposal at the March 18 meeting.


  1. Given the number of shootings in the area over the past year, I'm surprised someone wants to expose their customers to all that nonsense.

    It IS right across the street from an elementary school. They knew that when they bought the location. ... It's bad enough we let idiot self destructive smokers of tobacco products use their stinky drug in public. All dangerous cancer causing drugs — including alcohol and tobacco — should be used the the privacy of one's home/and or away from children, but we should at least give marijuana cocaine pcp and heroin users the same types of safe venues to consume that alcoholics enjoy. It's amusing how many alcoholics think they're above other drug addicts. But politicians banking on revitalizating DC with the drug industry demonstrate a sad lack of vision. Besides, that area is still a hot spot for illegal cocaine and heroin sales which go undeterred; that needs to be reeled in before we expand alcohol vendor's privileges. See graphic of cocaine sales:

  2. Everything in the above comment is wrong, particularly the BS assertion that this are is hot for cocaine and heroin. I doubt that was even true in the 1990s, let alone today. My guess is the author is the uneducated and misinformed "gentleman from Montgomery County."


    1. If the first commenter is the Shawington Times I know, he is far from uneducated, misinformed, and Montgomery County.