Adams Morgan liquor moratorium should expire

By:
04/24/2014

The moratorium on issuing liquor licenses to bars and restaurants in the neighborhood of Adams Morgan expires this month and faces possible renewal. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board first issued the moratorium at the behest of the neighborhood’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission in 2000, when the District operated under the financial discretion of a congressionally mandated control board. Changing populations, demographics, and economics, however, have made the Adams Morgan moratorium an inadvisable barrier to the neighborhood’s future economic expansion.

The liquor license moratorium in Adams Morgan was primarily used for late-night noise control. It also helped reduce crime in an area under-patrolled by police. But the changing economic reality in the neighborhood makes an extension on the moratorium ill-advisable. Like Dupont Circle and Glover Park, which also maintain liquor license moratoriums, Adams Morgan finds itself competing with retail and dining establishments in more developed areas.

All three neighborhoods have seen initiatives to lift their moratoriums within the past two years because of this disadvantage. Adams Morgan businesses and community leaders have also recognized that businesses avoid the neighborhood due to the moratorium, preferring areas in which liquor licenses are easier to obtain. It also limited the expansion of establishments that have chosen to operate in the neighborhood. The overturning of liquor license restrictions would signify a potential economic boon.

Finally, the possibility of a resurgence in the noise complaints Adams Morgan experienced prior to the moratorium can be controlled without the need for a wholesale restriction on liquor licenses. In Adams Morgan, community members have successfully protested bars, restaurants, and clubs that have been chief offenders of noise violations, and placed stipulations and restrictions on others through neighborhood commissions. Although such efforts require more advocacy than a unilateral moratorium, they allow for the potential economic benefits of lifting restrictions, while removing many of the possible repercussions of letting the moratorium expire.

In considering the advisability of a liquor license moratorium, the character of a neighborhood must be taken into account. Though probably of little benefit for a neighborhood as commercialized and developed as Georgetown, the potential benefits of recommending an end to the Adams Morgan moratorium vastly outweigh the detriments. Letting the ban expire would also acknowledge fundamental shifts in the economic and demographic character of the neighborhood, resulting in potential economic and social benefits as well.

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