Input Sought on Liquor Licensing

Posted February 13, 2004 at 3:25pm

Confronted with widespread disparities in liquor license renewal standards, a Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission is seeking public input on whether minimum community wide guidelines for the renewal of Class A and B liquor licenses should be implemented throughout its jurisdiction.

“The challenge when you single out some is you create an unbalanced standard,” said ANC 6A Chairman Joe Fengler, noting that commission protests of the biennial renewal of licenses were pending for six of the approximately 20 Class A or B holders in its area.

Class A licenses allow the retail sale of beer, wine and spirits for off-the-premises consumption, while Class B licenses allow only beer and wine sales.

The Alcohol Beverage Licensing committee of ANC 6A will hold the first of a series of meetings designed to gauge whether the community supports the concept of uniform licensing standards at 7 p.m. today at the Sherwood Recreation Center at 10th and G streets Northeast. Additional meetings are scheduled in March.

Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration guidelines allow groups of five or more citizens, neighborhood associations or ANCs to protest the renewal of licenses within 45 days of a license’s expiration date for establishments demonstrated to have a negative effect on property values; peace, order and quiet; or on residential parking needs and vehicular and pedestrian safety. If the parties are unable to reach a voluntary agreement — to be written into the holder’s liquor license — on the issues under dispute, the matter usually goes to mediation, and as a last resort, to an Alcohol Beverage Control Board protest hearing. Voluntary agreements may also be concluded between parties without first filing a protest.

But far too often, said ANC 6A04 Commissioner Nicholas Alberti, what results is “an uneven playing field,” with some merchants agreeing to abide by standards others reject. With community wide standards, all merchants would likely be asked to sign a uniform voluntary agreement, he said, which would free up the ANC’s efforts to focus on protesting “liquor licenses for those establishments that don’t agree.”

To publicize its community standards initiative, ANC 6A last week approved $1,732 to take out ads in the Hill Rag, DC North and Voice of the Hill, and to pay for transcription services. ANC 6A covers the area stretching roughly from Eighth Street Northeast to 19th Street Northeast and from East Capitol Street to Florida Avenue Northeast.

If the community ultimately favors the creation of such standards and the ANC approves it, the committee would then hold additional meetings to develop a set of agreed standards, which the ANC would also have to approve, said Fengler.

Such standards could potentially include limitations on single sales of alcohol, a key point of contention in protests lodged by the ANC against Anita’s Market and Yoni Food Market and Carryout, two convenience stores on 15th Street Northeast, where alleged loitering and drug and alcohol incidences have drawn complaints from residents.

But some merchants such as Sandy Chung, owner of 1101 Convenience Mart on H Street Northeast, are skeptical of the feasibility of a community wide standard.

“Right now there’s too many different communities,” said Chung, whose establishment has been the subject of past and present protests. “Some of the people who protest, they’ve never been into this store.”