City Paper Widget

Thursday, March 12, 2015

U Street ANC Asks Attorney General Opinion on Liquor License for Shared Office Space

At its regular monthly meeting March 10, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted unanimously to ask the the office of the DC Attorney General to weight in on the matter of the requirement of a liquor license for DC branch of WeWork, located in the Wonder Bread Factory (641 S Street NW) in Shaw. This may set a precedent for all shared office space establishments in DC.

Wonder Bread Factory in 2013
"This is actually a very important issue to tackle," said ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09).

DC's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has reviewed the case and issued a temporary liquor license to WeWork, according to page six of this March 4 document. This would allow WeWork to continue its practice of supplying beer free of extra charge to the tenants of its shared workspace for tech start-ups.   The ABC Board is presumably considering the issuance of a long-term Class C multi-purpose facility liquor license, which normally might cost around $2000 and be valid until March 2016.

WeWork, a multi-national company specializing in shared office space, had been providing a common refrigerator stocked with beer, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, to clients at its three DC locations until it was visited by the enforcement branch of DC's liquor-licensing authorities -- see SALM blog post here. While WeWork will probably not have difficulty getting a liquor license, the ANC brought up the possibility that WeWork doesn't actually need a liquor license as long as meets certain basic requirements -- similar to the 2014 case of a U Street art gallery reported here.

ANC1B voted to send a letter to the ABC Board supporting the contention that WeWork did not need a license. However, it was reported at the meeting that the ABC Board found aginst WeWork, meaning, WeWork is required to get a liquor license. This decision sets a precedent for all providers of shared office space in the district.

In addition, Commissioner Brian Footer (district 01) said: "It doesn't make sense."

Commissioners also reported advocates for WeWork had been given bad advice and had "made a poor argument during the basic finding hearing" at the ABC Board.

The DC Attorney General's office is not obligated to agree with ANC opinion, of course, but it is obligated to respond to a letter from the ANC.

In addition to the Wonder Bread Factory location, WeWork also has branches in Dupont Circle (1875 Connecticut Avenue) and Chinatown (718 7th Street).

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