Residents of the District’s thriving MidCity neighborhoods thunderously objected last spring to a controversial proposal by a tiny “citizens group” to impose a liquor license moratorium throughout the area. They quashed the idea by turning out at community meetings and registering opposition on petitions. Some even flipped a shopworn slogan utilized by development objectors.
“We don’t want to become the next Adams Morgan” was suddenly bestowed a new meaning by residents in Logan Circle, Shaw and surrounding 14th and U streets. They demonstrated a desire for convenient new dining, drinking and dancing amenities also offering the best of urban living to guests and visitors alike.
Originally advanced by liquor license protest groups, the phrase had become the battle cry complaint by the organized and vocal few throughout the city suffering suburban cul-de-sac symptoms. It was the meme that symbolized efforts to prohibit and restrict new bars and restaurants. Referencing the destination commercial strips along both 18th Street and Columbia Road intersecting at the center of the Adams Morgan neighborhood in northwest Washington, it was a generic slur against vibrant entertainment zones in densely populated high-profile areas.
The MidCity debate altered those implications. Rather than a whine against progress, residents utilized the phrase to refer instead to toxic moratorium-renewal-time warfare common in the handful of areas with business prohibitions. They considered outdated moratoriums a failed experiment posing obstacles to economic vitality.
Moratorium areas were getting left behind. Who wanted that?
It appears that the advisory neighborhood group for the namesake Adams Morgan of epithetic nomenclature is again likely to refuse shedding its nay-saying notoriety. The odds are long that they will ask the city to terminate a 14-year alcohol-license ban when it expires next April, despite plethoric negative effects on community business development. In fact, a small civic association is demanding that new restrictions be added. It is expected that, at best, only modest revisions will be advanced for city agency consideration.
The unfortunate mistake that the Dupont Circle advisory neighborhood commission made last month is anticipated for repetition in Adams Morgan.
The Dupont group finally offered the city an opinion too late to allow for city agency review prior to moratorium expiration, following several pretentiously titled “listening sessions” that nearly no one attended. Due this recurrent failure, the ban will need to be again temporarily extended until the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board can render a disposition decision.
The Dupont Circle advisory group is requesting that the ABC Board renew the 23-year-old “East Dupont” moratorium, voting to ask the city to continue the ban on bars while permitting new restaurants. The irony is that the current moratorium has allowed for two new restaurant licenses since 2010 – for which there have been no takers. The affected 17th Street, N.W., commercial strip has been rendered undesirable after more than two decades of enterprise suppression. A former commissioner called the group’s decision “insane.”
Also controversial was the manner by which the group determined their recommendation. According to Roberts Rules of Order, the 4-4 split vote should have resulted in defeat of the moratorium renewal resolution. However, an unusual provision hidden in the group’s bylaws grants the chairman’s vote extra weight in a tie, allowing the measure to pass. Henry Martyn Robert, author of the parliamentary standards bearing his name, resided in Dupont Circle in the late 19th century. Pity Mr. Robert, now spinning in his grave.
MidCity residents could only scoff at all this folly, witnessing the everyday eastward exodus of Dupont denizens toward an astounding array of retail and hospitality offerings on the business blocks of the adjacent moratorium-free areas.
The ABC Board is expected to soon announce rejection of the MidCity moratorium proposal. They should also terminate both the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan bans and put an end to marketplace misery.
The two neighborhood advisory groups are apparently not up to the task of asking.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.