You are here

RAMW Urges DC Council Reform of Alcohol Licensing Process

June 14, 2012
Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington Urges D.C. Council Reform of Alcohol Licensing Process in Response to Local Restaurant’s Seven-Year Regulatory Battle
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 15, 2012) – The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) today called on D.C. Council member Jim Graham to include reform of the District’s alcohol licensing approval process for restaurants and bars in legislation he is currently drafting for Council consideration.

RAMW urged D.C. Council action on city regulatory procedures following a lengthy 4-1/2 hour Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board hearing on Wednesday evening to review a licensing protest by only six Dupont Circle area residents involving award-winning neighborhood restaurant Hank’s Oyster Bar that has continued for more than seven years.

The ABC Board is currently reviewing a prior decision to rescind a “Voluntary Agreement” imposed on the restaurant by a small ad hoc group restricting seating capacity and including other operating limits originating at the time of the popular eatery’s opening in 2005. Termination of the agreement by the ABC Board in 2010 had allowed restaurant chef-owner Jamie Leeds to subsequently expand into an adjoining vacant property last year. The group had filed a lawsuit to have the Board’s decision nullified, resulting in a May 17 decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals that the Board erred in not fully considering all legal requirements of a termination decision and remanding the issue to the Board for additional adjudication.

RAMW is urging Graham, who chairs the Council committee with oversight of ABC agency matters, to include modification of the licensing “protest process” in order to eliminate these types of unnecessary delays in city review of business applications as a result of licensing opposition filings by small self-identified groups. Current law allows ad hoc groups of as few as five people to intervene in the city’s liquor licensing application review process.

“Allowing only a handful of residents to protest a liquor license application results in lengthy delays in review by the ABC Board causing great hardship for local businesses. The Hank’s Oyster Bar case has dragged on for more than seven years,” said RAMW President Lynne Breaux. “The appropriate neighborhood forum for licensing review and input is the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) elected by area residents,” Breaux argued, “not these ad hoc local groups.”