D.C. released four rare liquor licenses for Georgetown

D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration began accepting applications yesterday morning for four newly available liquor licenses, namely three restaurant licenses and one tavern license, designated for the Georgetown Historic District.

The Washington City Paper reported that restauranteurs had camped outside the Reeves Municipal Center from Wednesday to submit their applications in person, as the city government reviews them on a first-come, first-served basis.

Because of a moratorium set in 1989, liquor licenses in Georgetown are extremely difficult to obtain. Only 68 of them can exist, including inactive licenses. Georgetown only has six tavern licenses; an establishment that possesses it is not obligated to generate at least 45 percent of its revenue from food sales.

Only existing restaurants in Georgetown can apply for the tavern license, which became available after El Centro, a Mexican establishment on Wisconsin Ave., changed its operating status to a restaurant license. ABRA spokeswoman Jessie Cornelius told the City Paper that this was the second time a tavern license is up for grabs in 20 years.

The Georgetown Metropolitan reported that restaurants are discouraged from opening in Georgetown as a result of the high barriers to entry created by the moratorium.

Budding restauranteurs who wish to open an establishment can otherwise choose to obtain an inactive one in the secondary market for up to tens of thousands of dollars, Georgetown Business Improvement District CEO Joe Sternlieb told the City Paper in April 2013.

The moratorium was last relaxed in 2010 by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, which increased the total number of liquor licenses Georgetown businesses can hold from 61 to the current 68. “The implementation of seven new [licenses] would not adversely affect the public peace, order, and quiet or the moratorium,” ABC Board member Nick Alberti said at the time

Photo: flickr via Bernt Rostad

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