Greater Greater Washington

Georgetown liquor moratorium brings both good and bad

A group of U Street residents and business recently formed to fight a possible liquor license moratorium along the newly bustling corridor. The reaction has been swift and strong. Georgetown's experience with a similar one shows some benefits for a moratorium, but also bears out some of the concerns that moratorium opponents raise.


Photo by the author.

Eric Fidler weighed in yesterday with a list of reasons why a moratorium would be bad for the greater U Street 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 pressure to offer a good customer experience.
  • It unfairly rewards current businesses over future businesses.
  • It sets the cap at an arbitrary level.
  • It doesn't address the supposed problems those advocating for a moratorium raise (loud crowds, vandalism, etc.).
  • It's difficult to administer.

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 Street 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 Street.

Also, it's true that moratoriums don't address the negative externalities of existing drinking establishments. But they do address the negative externalities of bars that haven't yet opened. (And of course it also eliminates the positive externalities of those unopened bars and restaurants too!)

The cap may be arbitrary, but right now U Street has 107 licenses, over 50% more than Georgetown. Maybe it's arbitrary, but it doesn't seem likely that it's low.

All that said, U Street should not pursue a moratorium. New and interesting restaurants open there almost weekly. It would be like killing the goose that laid the golden egg to stop that now. It would make sense for U Street to trust the market but verify with strong voluntary agreements that address hours and outdoor patios, etc.

One criticism of moratoriums that Fidler did not mention, but should be pretty obvious from Georgetown's experience: they don't go away. Georgetown's has been renewed multiple times, and nobody seems to even make the case to let it expire. (To the ANC's credit, they did add seven new licenses to the cap last year, but that only brought us back to the level that existed in 1989).

Finally, many believe that moratoriums make existing licenses worth a lot more. And that appears to be mostly true. Last year, when the city "released" those seven new licenses into the Georgetown moratorium zone, they were quickly snapped up, in some cases by parties with only sketchy plans for actually opening. It was a land rush.

The thing is, half of those licenses have already been forfeited because the speculative plans simply fell through (or in one case the restaurant didn't want to comply with voluntary agreement restrictions). At least a couple now sit in ABRA unclaimed. Supposedly the lack of cheap liquor licenses is a huge obstacle to new restaurants opening in Georgetown, but the longer the free licenses sit there, the more that conventional wisdom seems wrong.

Topher Mathews has lived in the DC area since 1999. He created the Georgetown Metropolitan in 2008 to report on news and events for the neighborhood and to advocate for changes that will enhance its urban form and function. A native of Wilton, CT, he lives with his wife and new daughter in Georgetown.  

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As to the title of this article: "Georgetown liquor moratorium brings both good and bad."

I must have missed the 'good' things from the article. Forcing a new restaurant to only cater to the lunch crowd doesn't seem like a positive to me.

Does the moratorium in Georgetown also impact the 'clubs' that are not technically bars open to the public?

by Alex B. on May 4, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

Arlington takes care of some of this by having potentially disruptive businesses get use permits, which are periodically reviewed and renewed.

by Michael Perkins on May 4, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

"Georgetown restaurants are pretty boring. No new exciting restaurant has opened since Hook did, and it's closed already"

Huh? Really?...[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] I didn’t know places like La Chaumiere didn't measure up to [deleted]. With continued passage of the moratorium, Georgetown residents seem to think their selections are fine.

Who is anyone to arbitrarily decide what is “boring” and what isn’t, let alone use that highly subjective “analysis” as a basis for passing legislation?

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Then again, with the high rents, thriving commerce, clean sidewalks and relative lack of crime in these places, I think residents of those neighborhoods would disagree with you.

With the so called rationale [deleted] making up the anti-U street moratoriums, passage of a moratorium is a lock.

by Georgetown on May 4, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

Restaurant liquor moratoriums should be voted on every election cycle via referendum. The only reason these moratoriums stay in place is because every time they are up for renewal, 5 or 10 [deleted] in the neighborhood make it their mission to see to it that they are indeed renewed. It's not because the neighborhood collectively decides the moratoriums are a good idea. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Anti-moratorium on May 4, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

@Anti-moratorium,

So...what you are saying is that actually, the bulk of the residents in neighborhoods like Cleveland Park, Georgetown etc who've had moratoriums for decades actually want it to go away, but just haven't gotten around to it?

I'd love to see the proof behind your assertion. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] At some point, after decades have gone by and they are renewed time and time again, perhaps you just have to admit that it isn't a conspiracy and that people do actually want them.

by Georgetown on May 4, 2012 11:11 am • linkreport

I think this is a good piece but I have a quibble or two:

1. Part of the reason that "Georgetown restaurants are boring" likely has little to do with the moratorium.

It's because a good deal of the business comes from Georgetown being a regional and tourist destination. cf. http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/07/georgetown-and-chains-and-branding.html

A lot of the business is non-recurring so that they don't have to rely on re-attracting locals week-in and week-out. Instead they get one time customers (visitors). Now no restaurant in Georgetown is as horrid as Harry's at the Hotel Harrington downtown, but it's the same basic principle.

2. I don't think it would happen in Georgetown because it is a regional destination and therefore the rent dynamics are different making retail difficult except for mall type stores, but in places like 17th St. NW in Dupont Circle, I think that liquor license moratoria are a form of protection of retail establishments.

I think that's not a bad outcome.

In normal circumstances, restaurants will out-pay retailers, especially in neighborhood commercial districts with small retail trade areas, because they gross more revenue and profit/s.f. So this keeps some spaces/rents more affordable than they would otherwise be.

The issue is how much is too much/not enough. Cleveland Park probably has more demand for restaurants with liquor licenses than the Neighborhood Commercial Business District overlay zoning allows, but not enough demand for retail to otherwise fill up the spaces.

I'd argue that the issues are subtly different on U Street, but the points that you and Eric Fidler make about the need for better management are definitely true, cf. http://rhiweb.org/resource/books.html

I don't understand why DC doesn't up its game in management of the night-time economy in a substantive way.

It just seems impossible for elected officials and the agencies to up their game.

BY contrast, in the UK, elected and appointed officials actually did night time walk throughs and analysis:

-- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/11/report-on-londons-night-time-economy.html

-- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2010/12/seattle-nightlife-initiative-is-not.html

-- http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/dr-transit-offers-some-thoughts-on.html

by Richard Layman on May 4, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@Georgetown

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] There are plenty of things that haven't changed in decades just because of social inertia, all around the world and across the breath of human experience.

by Matthew B on May 4, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport


@ Georgetown

Actually, I just went through this in Glover Park. The ANC refuses to develop a system to systematically weigh public opinion on this issue. Even still, by their own counts, the calls and emails they received from residents supported ending the restaurant moratorium by more than 2 to 1. But they still make the decision based on their own opinions, so they chose to renew it.

I started a petition against the restaurant liquor license moratorium in Glover Park and got over 100 signatures in a couple weeks. Now you have some people in Midtown/U St. with a petition out there with 500 signatures! Looks like there isn't any lethargy to speak of! More like activism and motivation to stop letting [deleted] kill culture and progress and new business with stupid legislation.

Thanks to our battle in Glover Park, we got the ANC to agree to allow two new licenses. Not ideal but better than none. And thanks to that, within 1 day of the new licenses coming available, we saw a lease signed for a new Vietnamese place in a place that had been vacant for 3 years. This never would have happened without new licenses. The moratorium had allowed the old owner to sit on the existing license for 3 years while being shuttered, so no one could open a new business without buying that license for some unadvertised ungodly high amount of money.

Keep fighting these moratoriums. It is the right way to promote better food, better business, and better culture.

by Anti-moratorium on May 4, 2012 11:28 am • linkreport

Matthew B,

Yes I do, I'm one of those uncool folks who live in Georgetown, have for 12 years. I lived in CP for nearly 15 before that and have gone to dozens of ANC meetings during that time. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] I am well aquainted with my neighborhoods, the people who live there and the people who tend to show up for things like ANC meetings which are generally well attended. [Deleted], these moratoriums are in place, because the people who live there want them in place.

by Georgetown on May 4, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

Anti-moratorium,

I always love the assertion that because you can get 500 people on the street or in a bar or the internet to sign a piece of paper, that they actually

1. Live in the area of concern
2. Actually care enough to "show up".

Collecting signatures is easy, more so now, which is kinda why they are so meaningless. As we've seen on GGW, simply post a link to a auto signature list and your done, and through the magic of the internet you have hundreds or thousands of signatures within hours or days, most from people who don't actually live in the location of interest (as we've seen with past GGW signature drives for example) and most who have no idea what they are signing, why, or have any vested interest in it.

But how many actually care? How many take it one step further than the 1.3 seconds it took to "sign" something and show up when it matters?

How did you personally get the signatures? Did you walk through a bar, telling everyone one "the man" was gonna take their booze away? Did you go house to house in Glover Park? Really, I am curious.

I am even more curious as to how many of those 100 people you signed up were actually Glover Park residents and actually showed up at the ANC meeting(s) afterward?

And your view of ANC people is simply wrong.

What is the goal of any person in a public position? Answer, to keep their job. ANC people do what every other person in a similar position do, whats popular to keep them in their position.

If there was an overwhelming majority of people in Glover Park (or any other area) who wanted to get rid of it, they would.

I've never fought a moratorium in my life, never even spoke the word "moratorium" at any ANC meeting. Never had to as the two neighborhoods where I live(ed) that have them never had any interest in getting rid of them. Once every year someone would post something on the local listserv asking about it, or one person would ask about it at an ANC meeting, but there was zero interest in getting rid of them.

by Georgetown on May 4, 2012 11:52 am • linkreport

@ Georgetown

I did it all on the world wide web. (And I love it when people go straight to the "do you even live in Glover Park?" defense. Even worse is the "Are you even a homeowner or do you just rent?") Yes about 90% of my petition signatories lived in Glover Park. They are a fast-growing group called YIMBYs. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] They are invading this part of town like wildfire!

by Anti-moratorium on May 4, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

Anti-moratorium -- your suggestion that moratoria be renewed through a vote (referendum) is actually brilliant, and a great example of increasing citizen engagement and participation at the sub-ward level.

I wouldn't do it every two years but maybe every 4 years.

2. There was one kind of instance where an ANC SMD created a systematic procedure (vote) to determine what to do. It had to do with a church tearing down properties to create a parking lot in Brookland.

Theoretically, you could say that the Chevy Chase aNC did this wrt consideration of the creation of a historic district, but by considering every nonvote a "no vote" (which is not a typical process), it was a flawed process.

by Richard Layman on May 4, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

To say any set number of licenses is arbitrary is painfully obvious. Everybody will have a different number and sincere reasons why their number is the right one. The only way to set the number is to have no set number and let the market work it out. When patronage of an establishment is less than its operating costs, the establishment will close. The market has a built-in limitation, except its not one any person or board can dictate, but is the cumulative effect of the free decisions of adults.

It's curious no one has addressed the morality of having a board of self-anointed babysitters dictate to free-thinking adults how many establishments their area can have. When did people lose their ability to self-determine, through their patronage, what establishments exist in their community?

I commend Eric for rightly pointing out the foolishness of these moratoriums.

by Jeff on May 4, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

In some ways increasing the value of licenses by limitation does weed out more marginal ones. Of course a marginal place isn't necessarily a troublesome one and a successful one isn't necessarily a good one, but generally speaking it does up the entrance fee.

Georgetown, when I was young, did have a horrible problem with troublesome bars. I know, I went to them (the Bayou got some great bands on occasion). I think it was because too much of Georgetown's energy was spent in years past trying to close disruptive ones that the moratorium came in. And retail does better in Georgetown than it would other places.

To a large extent a lot of the controversy divides at 14th Street. On the west side we've always worked closely with Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle and in a way see them as a model for what we'd like to be. The Georgetown Citizens Association actually funded several of my neighborhood's battles in years past as we were rehabilitating. East of 14th the model seems to be Adams Morgan and if that's what the people there really want it's their choice. Even though I live very close to 14th, I always respect people on the other side's wishes.

Ultimately ABRA is an example of regulatory capture and until we get a meaningful distinction between restaurants and bars this controversy will continue.

by Tom Coumaris on May 4, 2012 1:20 pm • linkreport

Jeff, your comment above - "When did people lose their ability to self-determine, through their patronage, what establishments exist in their community?" -- assumes that it is the people who live in the community in question who are deciding the answer to this question. This is not necessarily the case.

In Glover Park for example, most of the landlords do not live in Glover Park; many of the patrons of certain establishments do not live in Glover Park. The community therefore cannot necessarily count on either the landlords or the patrons of Glover Park establishments to act in the best interests of those who live in Glover Park. Hence, the justification for the moratorium.

by Glover Park Resident on May 4, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

@Glover Park Resident, I was only assuming that adults can decide for themselves what establishments they patronize. It really doesn't matter where the restaurant goers live. No community, like no man, is an island. Moratoriums are not designed to protect citizens of a certain area, that is merely the cover. They are often supported, encouraged even, by the established businesses. Moratoriums protect status quo, nothing else.

by Jeff on May 4, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

Anti-moratorium,

Residency within an ANC is certainly important when that ANC is setting legislation for businesses within that ANC that affects residents of that ANC. You seem content to allow non-resident participation because it is an issue you are concerned about, but look at it at a larger level.

You are probably like me and are infuriated and incensed when some "insert name of " Congressman from other states involve themselves into DC politics, try to force DC specific legislation because it looks good back home.

You can't have it both ways. Both are clear examples of outsiden involvement and how it should have zero bearing on the issue at hand.

And considering the moratorium is still in place, I guess I was right in that only a few, if any of the 100 (90 legit) people who signed up actually took the time to show up.

Obviously it wasn't important to them.

by Georgetown on May 4, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

Jeff, your comment above - "Moratoriums are not designed to protect citizens of a certain area, that is merely the cover." -- is utter nonsense.

Moratoriums are put in place by residents of a community (or their duly elected ANC commissioners) to protect aspects of the community in which they live and wish to maintain; moratoriums can be removing or modified (barring ABRA overruling residents, which they typically do not do)by the same residents and/or their duly elected ANC commissioners, and are reviewed every three to five years by those residents/duly elected ANC commmissioners.

by Glover Park Resident on May 4, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

Ideally one quantify the negative externalities of establishments service liquor, net of positive externalities, and make that the oost of the license (and distinguish between the negs of a bar with few food sales, and one with lots, etc) and then let the market determine the number of licenses. Im not sure thats practical.

While a cap is arbitrary, there are negative externalities to perfectly legal bars (which therefore cannot be dealt with through other codes), and the positive externalities of non-restaurant retail, which R Layman mentions, are part of that.

by YeahItookMicroEcontoo on May 4, 2012 2:09 pm • linkreport

To all:

This is a city, and a region, where all parts support the whole.

Balkanizing is not the route to One City or a Greater Greater Washington.

If bars and bargoers are such an issue, there are man ways of dealing with said issue. If living near an established entertainment corridor is affecting your quality of life in such a dire way, then perhaps it's time to move, rather than imposing arbitrary limits to the free market, and driving up costs for ordinary citizens.

The choice is not Adams Morgan vs Non Adams Morgan, it's between inclusiveness and exclusiveness.

by Matthew B on May 4, 2012 2:14 pm • linkreport

There are counties in Va. where sale of Alchohol is totally banned. I don't live in those counties but I can still say if its a good idea or not.

Anyway, the moratorium is not what makes Georgetown a top retail destination nor will the absence of a bar mean that a retail space will open in its place. People like variety in bars and restaurants. They don't need much variety in grocery and hardware stores.

by Canaan on May 4, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

PS since we all live in/around Washington, let's all just be honest and admit that moratoriums are as flexible as defense spending

by Matthew B on May 4, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

GPR, what gives an individual, or group of individuals, from deciding for all what businesses can and can't open in any loosely-defined area? In my original comment, I pointed out the moral question involved. Having just 50% + 1 being enough to tell the rest of the community what options they can or can't have is mob rule. Having some elected group of busybodies making those decisions is oligarchical. The ANC barring business entry is tantamount to a denial of the right to free assembly. This is immoral. No one forces anyone to go to a particular restaurant, they must freely choose to do so and spend their hard-earned money. One must accept when they support the ANC denying legal businesses to operate they are comfortable with some board having the authority and force to deny lawful citizens their right to freely assemble and form a business. Are you willing to say this?

Another question is why do Glover Park residents need so much protection for themselves? Are they in such need of babysitting? If the moratorium were lifted tomorrow would Glover Park descend into some kind of Watts riot orgy of mayhem and violence? I think not. I take the view that people are generally smart, not stupid, and best left to make their own decisions for themselves.

by Jeff on May 4, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

Jeff, I'm not a constitutional scholar, so I won't engage on the free assembly/freedom-to-form-a-business questions you raise, except to note that zoning codes restrict free choice in the same way you discuss moratoriums reducing free choice, and everyone seems perfectly happy with the existence of zoning codes.

I am in 100% agreement with your view that "people are generally smart, not stupid, and best left to make their own decisions for themselves." That's exactly the decision that residents of Glover Park, Georgetown, and other communities have made with regard to a moratorium - it is a decision they have made as a community to impose a moratorium. Nobody forces it on a neighborhood against their will, and neighborhoods, via their elected representatives, can change it as they see fit.

by Glover Park Resident on May 4, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

"If living near an established entertainment corridor is affecting your quality of life in such a dire way, then perhaps it's time to move, rather than imposing arbitrary limits to the free market, and driving up costs for ordinary citizens."

I think you are unduly privileging the market place. The market exists to serve social ends, not for its own sake. Its perfectly legitimate for a community to debate the costs and benefits of regulating business. There can be arguments on both sides, but to dismiss a regulation simply because it delivers a different result than an unregulated market is ideological fetishization, not a pragmatic approach to policy.

by WhydoLibertariansThinkTheyOwnMicroEcon? on May 4, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

" Having some elected group of busybodies making those decisions is oligarchical. "

Au contraire. Its democratic. Its a democratic control over the market place. You should read Michael Walzer sometime.

by WhydoLibertariansGetToReinventWords? on May 4, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

Answers to these types of questions are not easy, as many sincere people have honest disagreements about how their city, town, quarter, even block should look and feel. It's for this reason, that, to the greatest extent possible, I try to approach such questions with the mindset of "can this be solved with more, not less, freedom?" Only by restraining our impulses to design, plan, and steer others and their own choices to the greatest extent possible can we begin to truly please the most people.

One last thing, I won't take it for granted that "neighborhoods have 'wills'" in the sense that a person has a "will." You can only speak of a "neighborhood's will" or a "people's will" once you accept that doing so necessitates ignoring the voices of anyone in said group who disagrees with the majority, which is really the "will" being spoken of in these cases.

by Jeff on May 4, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

'"can this be solved with more, not less, freedom?"

How about more, not less, democracy?

"Only by restraining our impulses to design, plan, and steer others and their own choices to the greatest extent possible can we begin to truly please the most people.'

Thats not necessarily the case.

"One last thing, I won't take it for granted that "neighborhoods have 'wills'" in the sense that a person has a "will." You can only speak of a "neighborhood's will" or a "people's will" once you accept that doing so necessitates ignoring the voices of anyone in said group who disagrees with the majority, which is really the "will" being spoken of in these cases."

Oh geez, you're in a battle with Jean Jacques Rousseau.

"you accept that doing so necessitates ignoring the voices of anyone in said group who disagrees with the majority, which is really the "will" being spoken of in these cases.""

accepting the market result ALSO means ignoring the voices of those who support regulation so some individual wills be ignored in any case. Whether you call the decision that emerges from discussion and bargaining between people a "will" or not is a philosophical distinction, one with little merit IMO.

by WhydoLibertariansTurneveryLittleThingIntoaDebateonPhilosophy? on May 4, 2012 3:00 pm • linkreport

Sounds like there is an easy solution to this moratorium issue -- Put it on the ballot. Make it a referendum every two or four years. Let the registered voting citizens decide so the decision reflects the will of the people. Who has a problem with that?

Unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee that the Glover Park ANC would not support this idea. But anyone who wants to hear me ask them about it can come to the next meeting, which I believe is next Thursday night at Stoddert. You would expect if they were so confident in their survey of public sentiment, they should be ok with it right? Yeah right.

by Anti-moratorium on May 4, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

is there even a mechanism in DC for ANC specific referenda?

IIUC in Chicago local dry status, at least, is by referendum, precinct by precinct

by AtLastAReasonableAntiIdea on May 4, 2012 3:56 pm • linkreport

re referenda: no there isn't a mechanism for ANC specific referenda, but there should be.

The Home Rule Charter makes referenda very difficult. I think out of fear of the impact of referenda in California in particular Prop. 13, the Charter disallows referenda on items that have fiscal impact.

Plus the vote of the citizens is not inviolate. E.g., citizens voted for term limits. City Council overturned the result.

by Richard Layman on May 4, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

"newly bustling U Street" That might have been a true description 20 years ago when the hipsters started discovering it, but that description hasn't applied for a long, long time.

by Rich on May 4, 2012 5:23 pm • linkreport

Rich,

While U Street was bustling 20 years ago, the crowd was a bit different. The crack prostitutes, drug dealers and heroin addicts that congregated around the abandoned Children's Hospital and 14th & W were not hipsters.

The tipping point was not until around 2005 that the crowds became steady however even then the eastern end of U Street and the middle of 14th between Logan and U were still filled with large vacanies and boarded up buildings.

by Scott P on May 5, 2012 7:16 am • linkreport

The problem with this discussion and the one yesterday about U Street is neither focus on the actual issues that everyone wants addressed, they focus on the tool of the moratorium which just establishes limits. We need to focus efforts on establishing:

1. Clean & Safe programs that manage the impacts of high usage
2. Parking restrictions in the surrounding residential neighborhoods
3. Maximizing transportation options for visitors and visitor parking
4. Balancing types and times of use between office and residential
5. Alley and waste management to minimize quality of life impacts
6. Nighttime management strategies that are more than extra police

Georgetown has focused on these with a BID, with extended hour parking restrictions for the zone, with new transportation via circulator and blue lines, a mix of office and residential that provides nighttime parking and daytime customers for those lunch only restaurants, and have had several efforts to better manage waste as the rats were overwhelming the alleys back in the 90's.

The city needs to figure out a BID formula for neighborhoods that is adaptable for each circumstance. U Street has flirted with BID's in 1998 the U Street Business and Arts Coalition (UBAC) formed to explore the idea as BID's were forming downtown. We opted instead for the Main Street program which after the first year of existence was deemed unsustainable by the National Trust report that said a consistent financing source was needed and recommended a BID. The problem with the Main Street program was that while being successful in developing programs and attracting new infill, it never captured the increased tax revenue where commercial property taxes increased as much as 400%

Then when we shut down the Main Street program in 2006, the programs such as Green Team (Clean & Safe), Special Event promotion (Dog Days of August Sidewalk Sale) and cooperative marketing (nightime supporting daytime) for the district transferred back to (UBAC) which reformed as the MIdCity Business Association, with plans to establish a BID.

MidCity BA championed the small business property tax relief, holding multiple forums, including a citywide one at the Lincoln Theatre . The city council approved a reduction from $1.80 to .95 cents for the first $3 million of assessed value that would have given the opportunity to implement a BID, however Mayor Fenty rolled that back to $1.70 to pay for other priorities and then the council lowered it to $1.65.

While that saved local businesses about $3000 a year, the reduction was still being quickly eaten up by tax and lease rate increases where the larger reduction would have allowed for the implementation of a BID tax without impacting operations as they still would have been paying significantly less for much improved services.

Then the economy tanked and the concept of an additional tax became an extremely hard sale for small businesses to swallow, particularly when large government buildings (Reeves, Garnett Patterson, Grimke, Police and fire headquarters, as well as all faith based structures and non-profit owned buildings all remained exempt in the cities BID formula.

The Reeves Building alone would pay for a clean & safe program for 14th & U in most BID formulas. So now we are seeing another huge influx of development with over 2000 new units planned for 14th and eastern U with no good formula available to organize around.

The ability to develop a good formula has been inhibited by the long standing political conflicts between the Ward 1 an Ward 2 Councilmembers, where Jim Graham wanted to exclude any part of Ward 2 from being part of the BID, even though these are not relevant boundaries to a commercial district, particularly when the boundaries for the Wards go right down the middle of 14th & U Streets.

So, instead, out of frustration for lack of improvement, we get people trying to implement restrictions like a moratorium instead of solutions to the real issues the community is facing and the various interests fail to find the common ground to move forward with constructive solutions.

by Scott P on May 5, 2012 8:15 am • linkreport

Bad restaurants go out of business because they are not supported. Good ones stay around because they are supported. If its a matter of noise, violence, violations, etc., address those issues with laws. Business deals with an adverse environment - especially in DC. Why make it more difficult for a good business to launch and succeed?

by Petworth on May 5, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

The ANC barring business entry is tantamount to a denial of the right to free assembly.

This statement is only true if the definition of "tantamount to" has been changed when I wasn't paying attention to "not at all like." I'm no constitutional scholar, but freedom of assembly is not at all related to the (nonexistent, but nonetheless oft-cited) "right" to start a business and earn a profit.

I'm generally anti-moratorium, so my comment has nothign to do with this particular issue. It's just that this type of false equivalence (standard Tea Party/libertarian operating procedure) can't be permitted to pass unchallenged. If it is, people will stary believing this nonsense.

by dcd on May 6, 2012 11:33 am • linkreport

If Cleveland Park, Glover Park, or other areas want to keep their boring neighborhoods boring, that is up to them. I prefer to live in a vibrant, growing part of the city, and am really excited to see all the new bars and restaurants opining on 14th and U Streets. That's why I live where I do, as with all of my friends in the area. As others has said, if there is a problem bar or restaurant it needs to be dealt with individually, not by blocking all progress. City policy needs to stop being dictated by the vocal few.

by Mike on May 7, 2012 9:45 am • linkreport

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Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

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