As reported by WBJ last week, due to the former Saloun liquor license being allowed to lapse, a new tavern license is available in Georgetown. The Post reported yesterday that two existing venues, Gypsy Sally’s and Smith Point, were the first through the door to try to claim the new license.
Bit of background: There a several different types of liquor licenses in DC. Of relevance to this discussion are restaurant licenses and tavern licenses. A holder of a restaurant licences is required to get a certain portion of its revenues from the sale of food, and must regularly report its sales to ABRA to certify its compliance. A tavern license, on the other hand, comes with no food sales requirements. Thus tavern licenses are often viewed as desirable by bar owners.
Georgetown has been subject to a liquor license moratorium for several decades. That moratorium has both an overall cap, that applies to restaurants and tavern licenses combined, and a specific cap on just tavern licenses. No new tavern license may be issued until the number drops below six. (Which is different than saying there may not be more than six period. The moratorium limit of six was set at a time when there were more than six out there. Over time they’ve steadily been converted or abandoned.) Once Saloun failed to renew their license (which was, frankly, stupid of them) the number of taverns dropped below six and consequentially a new one may be issued.
ABRA’s policy on licenses is a first-come-first-serve one. Thus, as the Post reported, the owners of Gypsy Sally’s literally raced across town to submit their application to exchange their restaurant license for a tavern one. The Post doesn’t say whether Gypsy Sally’s or Smith Point submitted the application first.
The question GM has is what role the bar’s respective voluntary agreements (now called “settlement agreements”) will play. Both bars has agreements with the ANC and CAG. It’s unclear to GM whether the bars would have to successfully terminate those agreements before getting issued a new license, or whether the timing of that action would affect which one “wins” the race. (Full disclosure: GM in on the board of CAG and would likely be called to vote on any action to amend or terminate an agreement.)
While Gypsy Sally’s only opened in September, GM suspects they’d get more community support for this change. Their business plan ran into very little local opposition and so far they appear to be running a great ship. Smith Point, on the other hand, has a long history of running afoul of neighbors and the law.