Photo by Pedestrian Typography.
As discussed here, last month the ANC held a special session to address Dixie Liquors’s request for an exemption to the single sales ban. The emergency meeting was necessary because ABRA already had granted Dixie’s request for an exemption and so the ANC was asking for ABRA to reconsider its decision.
The original decision by ABRA to grant the exemption was based, in part, on the fact that the ANC failed to weigh in against Dixie’s original application for waiver. The ANC didn’t pass a resolution against the application on the mistaken belief that no exemption would be granted without an affirmative resolution by the ANC.
Given this miscommunication, it’s somewhat understandable that the ANC would adopt a strongly worded resolution objecting to the issuance of the waiver without a positive resolution (as well as the lack of effective notice from ABRA that it was about to grant the waiver). But the actual resolution goes way overboard:
ANC 2E requests that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board vacate and reconsider its decision (Order No. 2010-331) regarding the Application of Dixie Liquors, Inc. for an exception to single sales restrictions.
This decision was taken without an appropriate opportunity for input from ANC 2E. For the reasons set out below, we urge that Order No. 2010-331 be vacated and reconsidered, and that a hearing be held with ANC 2E participation.
We believe the law banning single sales in our area should be left in place for the good of our community and that the Application of Dixie Liquors should be denied.
After deliberation with fellow Commissioners, constituents and members of the business community, it was determined by ANC 2E that the best interests were served by declining the request for an exception.
Panhandler / drifter population. The Commission and constituents have observed a decrease and absence of “drifters” who used to populate the Francis Scott Key Park located a half block east and south of Dixie Liquors. While it is impossible to positively link the elimination of single-serve liquor, it is indisputable that there has been a direct correlation.
Business plan. When a law is enacted that impacts how one has to conduct business, the business has to adjust its business plan. Other liquor stores are enjoying excellent business while under the same constraints as Dixie Liquors.
Hotel guests. The only hotel where a guest or employee can walk or drive directly to Dixie Liquors without passing at least one other liquor store would be the Key Bridge Marriott in Virginia. Other hotels, including and not necessarily limited to the Four seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Latham, Georgetown Inn, and Georgetown Suites all have at least one other liquor store between it and Dixie Liquors.
Chefs. Dixie Liquors states “area chefs purchase small bottles of liquor for use in recipes and cooking . . .” Commissioner Starrels who likes to cook has found that the cost difference in a pint size of liquor versus the small banned sizes are only five or six dollars, and anyone who cooks on a regular basis will spend the extra few dollars for the larger size. A true professional chef will not likely buy a small bottle of liquor that he or she will use in an hour.
Micro-Brews. Other sellers of liquor, including Safeway, have no problem selling micro-brews in multi-packs.
Georgetown University. Dixie Liquors is the closest liquor store to both Georgetown University and to the West Georgetown neighborhood where many undergraduates live. Dixie Liquors is the largest seller of kegs of beer near the University. It seems only logical that a good portion of the single sales Dixie Liquors has lost is related to the proximity of the University. It is also noted re Dixie Liquors’ community outreach that Georgetown University concerns comprise the largest amount of in kind contributions.
Petitions. Dixie Liquors submitted five petitions from supportive businesses. The most recent petition is from Garrett’s Restaurant, which is located at the opposite end of Georgetown closest to the Four Seasons Hotel (see map, attached). There is no geographic relevance to Garrett’s location. One petition of interest is that of the Philadelphia Pizza Co. at “1234 34th Street, NW”. This establishment was most recently located on Potomac Street for the last two years. Further, this business was forcibly closed by DCRA and the Superior Court due to zoning violations. The other pre-printed petitions include a dry cleaner, a cell phone store and a bike shop. There are no letters of support from the Georgetown Business Improvement District, the Georgetown Business Association, or the Citizens Association of Georgetown. In fact, the Citizens Association opposes the Applicant’s request for a single sales exemption.
Wagner’s Liquor. Wagner’s Liquor was granted an exception without ANC 2E input. ANC 2E if given proper communication about the procedures would have opposed that exception. We have addressed this in a meeting with the Director, ANC Commissioners and representatives from the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
Procedurally, we note that:
Neither ABRA nor the Board provided ANC 2E with a copy of the Application of Dixie Liquors until April 22, which is after the Board heard and decided Order No. 2010-331, an omission that is inconsistent with the governing statute;
ABRA’s April 8 barebones notice to ANC 2E that an Application had been filed did not indicate that, contrary to normal practice, a hearing would be held within a matter of days;
An immediate hearing was also not anticipated by ANC 2E because of the customary mutual understanding, reinforced by the governing ANC statute, that our ANC conducts monthly public meetings and cannot normally be expected to act in between such meetings;
ANC 2E did respond in a timely manner – within 6 days (4 business days) – to the April 8 notice from ABRA in this matter: On April 14 we responded by requesting a copy of the Application and indicating that we would consider the Application at the next scheduled public meeting of ANC 2E, on May 3;
ANC 2E, like ABRA and the Board, cannot be expected to respond to a potential applicant’s email suggesting in general and unspecific language that it expects to file a formal application in a matter, but instead acts only if and when a specific application actually is filed and official notice is received; and
The Applicant’s own submission to the Board acknowledges that ANC 2E has indicated in its public meetings that it is not in favor of single sales exemptions within our community, yet this was not taken into account by the Board either in substance or as a cautionary signal that ANC 2E would surely want to participate in this matter.
We regret and are concerned about any misunderstanding about notice to our ANC in this matter. Our working relationship with ABRA and the Board is excellent, and we will do everything in our power to maintain that comity. The timing of the hearing in this matter was an exception to normal, well-functioning practices and we urge that this be corrected by vacating and reconsidering Order No. 2010-331.
This is a way over the top resolution. From the tone of it, you’d think Dixie Liquors was asking permission to sell machine guns and crack. In GM’s opinion it reflects the often bullying approach that the ANC takes with regards to liquor license matters. A similar tack was taken last year with regards to a moratorium for the Georgetown Court complex.
The ANC appears to have legitimate grievances with regards to the procedural aspects of this case. And a specific retelling of those facts is appropriate. But the resolution’s overly cynical analysis of the merits of Dixie’s application is unnecessarily harsh and is inconsistent with past positions of the ANC. Remember that just last year the ANC and CAG were close to supporting a Georgetown-wide exemption from the single sales ban. That’s all ancient history now, though, since according to this resolution nobody but drunk Georgetown students would ever want to buy a single serving of alcohol and any liquor store that can’t survive without selling them isn’t trying hard enough.
The thing is, this resolution almost didn’t pass. The ANC met for its executive session prior to the special meeting, which Commissioner Skelsey attended. However, Skelsey wasn’t planning on sticking around for the actual meeting. It was clear that with him gone, the resolution would be defeated 2-2 (Starrels and Lewis for, Eason and Golds against). Heavy persuading took place, and he stuck around. The resolution passed 3-2.
But despite all of this Sturm und Drang, ABRA rejected the ANC’s request to reconsider its exemption for Dixie. So now Dixie Liquors and Wagner’s have exemptions from the single sales ban. This raises a couple interesting questions. First, can the ANC object to a request from the other liquor stores now that two of their competitors have exemptions? Second, even if they do object to the next waiver application, will ABRA listen then if they didn’t listen here?