Tag Archives: Liquor moratorium

Some Georgetown Perspectives on Liquor Moratoriums

Recently, a group has been formed of U St. residents and business to fight a possible liquor license moratorium along the newly bustling corridor. The move to impose a moratorium was so nascent that for a little while the media had no idea who was pushing for a moratorium in the first place. Despite the small size of the effort, the reaction has been swift and strong.

LeDroit Park blogger Eric Fidler weighed in yesterday with a list of reasons why a moratorium would be bad for the greater U St. neighborhood, including:

  • It makes no distinction between “good” establishments and “bad” establishments
  • A moratorium on liquor license is in effect a moratorium on new restaurants period
  • It will reduce the need to provide good customer experiences
  • It unfairly rewards current businesses over future businesses
  • It sets the cap at an arbitrary level
  • It doesn’t address the supposed problems put forward by those advocating for a moratorium (loud crowds, vandalism, etc.)
  • It’s difficult to administer

It’s probably useful to consider the Georgetown experience with the moratorium when considering if one would make sense for U St.

Georgetown has had a moratorium since 1989. Right now, only about 70 liquor licenses can be issued to Georgetown bars and restaurants (liquor stores and hotels are not subject to the moratorium). Here are some of the results attributed to the long standing moratorium:

  • Opening a new restaurant in Georgetown is more expensive than opening one elsewhere. On top of the higher rent, you need to purchase a liquor license on the secondary market from a license holder who no longer wants it. This has reportedly driven the cost of such licenses close to $100,000.
  • Georgetown restaurants are pretty boring. No new exciting restaurant has opened since Hook did, and it’s closed already.
  • Drunken revelry is only a problem in certain spots around the neighborhood.

So some of Fidler’s predictions have already come true in Georgetown. The moratorium cannot be waived for particularly “good” restaurants, the quality of the restaurants has not kept up with the dining renaissance seen in other neighborhoods, and the cap seems arbitrarily set.

Some of Fidler’s predictions for U St. have not come true for Georgetown. Restaurants have opened in Georgetown without obtaining a liquor license. They are more likely to cater to a lunch crowd, but a restaurant is a restaurant. And it isn’t really difficult to administer. The zone basically is everything south of Q St. Continue reading


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