Early last year, the D.C. City Council passed a ban on selling single beers in some D.C. neighborhoods, including Georgetown. Faced with major revenue losses, many business owners immediately sought exceptions to the ban from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. Those who could convince their ANCs that they weren’t selling singles at a price where homeless could buy them—the Logan Circle ANC gave an exception to a Whole Foods to sell pricey microbrews, for example—were by and large successful.
A year later, guess which ANC still isn’t playing ball with one local business?
Yep. Early Friday morning, Georgetown’s ANC met at the offices of the Georgetown Business Improvement District to discuss a request from Dixie Liquor for an exemption to sell high-price craft brews. In a 3-2 vote, the ANC passed a resolution advising the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration not to grant Dixie an exemption, frustrating efforts Dixie began in February 2009.
Back then, in an ANC meeting, Dixie Liquor owner Joy Kurash had argued that Dixie was projected to lose out on $38,000 without the exemption. She also brought samples to emphasize that what she intended to sell was expensive—high-end microbrews that start at $14, culinary liquors, and a Sam Adams “Utopia,” a $180 beer that Sam Adams only brews every other year. The ANC deferred a vote on the exemption.
On Friday, along with Commissioners Ron Lewis, Bill Starrels, and Bill Skelsey, the Citizens Association of Georgetown argued that single-sales of alcohol are directly related to high rates of vagrancy, pointing to the presence of “drifters” in Francis Scott Key Park.
Kurash, Dixie’s owner, dismissed that argument.
“I look at that park daily and I don’t see litter from beer cans. I just really think your claims are inaccurate,” she said.
Dixie Liquors manager Nick Weaver also disputed the claim that exemption would fuel vagrancy, pointing out that Dixie doesn’t plan on selling single cans but rather craft brews at fairly high prices.
“I don’t think they understand. We’re not trying to sell bums 40 ounces of beer,” Weaver said.
He also doubted another one of the ANC’s claims—that the proximity of Georgetown University would somehow lead students to take advantage of the potential exemption.
“It’s absurd …. As a student, are you going to buy a four pack of sixteen ounce bottles or half a gallon of booze?” Weaver said.
Although they passed a resolution in opposition, they said that the prospect of an exemption still warranted further discussion. The ANC argued—as it often does—that there was not enough community input informing Dixie’s request to ABRA.
“Process is important, regardless of the outcome …. We should tell ABRA this is not how it’s done. Standing up for process is essential,” Commissioner Bill Skesley said.
By community input, hey seem to mean local residents. Last February, nearby businesses signed a petition in favor of Dixie’s request for an exemption, but the ANC was not interested in seeing it.
“I’m not interested in the businesses, you’re all going to support each other anyway, not to be cynical,” Eason had said.
The twenty-minute hearing, scheduled before a Georgetown BID meeting, didn’t allow for too much discussion, but Commissioner Bill Starrels said that he would be “more than happy to sit down” with Dixie and community representatives “and find some middle ground.”
An earlier version of this post confused Commissioners Bill Skelsey and Charles Eason. Vox apologizes for the confusion.