The liquor license moratorium is dead. Its death was announced yesterday by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. It was 27 years old.
It leaves behind a much smaller tavern moratorium, which limits the number of taverns in Georgetown to six.
The moratorium was born in a much different Georgetown than we have today. As a result of a delayed increase to the D.C. drinking age, Georgetown became a regional destination for partiers in the 1980s. Even after D.C. joined the rest of the nation with a 21 year old drinking age, Georgetown continued to be dominated by party and college bars. So neighborhood leaders worked with the city to pass legislation enabling a moratorium, and then adopted one in 1989.
Did the moratorium end Georgetown’s partying ways? Certainly not immediately. But it arguably put a ceiling on its growth. And as neighborhoods across the city grew into nightlife destinations of their own, much of the energy was drained from the Georgetown nightlife scene. And the moratorium was not only no longer necessary, it was detrimental.
So egged on by the BID, neighborhood leaders came back together last year and agreed that the moratorium needed to go. After reaching an agreement on how to proceed, the groups requested that the ABC Board not extend the moratorium this year.
Will this have immediate effects in Georgetown? Probably not. High rents will continue to be the primary driver of the collapse in the Georgetown restaurant presence on the main drags of M St. and Wisconsin Ave. But it will bring some predictability to restauranteurs interested in moving into the neighborhoods less in-demand areas. And that predictability will attract more legitimate businesses (as opposed to the squatters who have taken up most of the free licenses over the past five years or so).
The moratorium is dead; long live Georgetown.