Ben's Chili Bowl is a popular hangout in the U Street area, which is a nightlife destination for many local revelers.
The party will go on along U Street.
The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board today unanimously rejected a proposed moratorium on liquor licenses for the U Street corridor, saying that imposing one could blunt the neighborhood’s dramatic revival.
In a written order, the five-person commission said that a moratorium on new bars, restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, and liquor stores would negatively impact property values in the area while having little appreciable impact on peace, order and safety.
According to the Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance, the group backing the moratorium, the U Street area is awash in liquor—close to 100 license-holders boasting thousands of seats—producing quality-of-life concerns and driving out traditional businesses that would attract daytime traffic.
But in its order, the board largely rejected that claim, and said that bars and restaurants had helped the U Street area escape the “deep sleep” it suffered in the wake of the 1968 riots that decimated many D.C. neighborhoods.
“In essence, while there are many licensed establishments in the area, and even more on the way, the Board does not find that the establishments adversely affect the area. Rather, there is a revival of economic development that is attracting businesses and residents alike to the U Street corridor,” wrote the board.
There are currently moratoria in place in Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Glover Park, and Georgetown.
After the moratorium was proposed for U Street in December 2012, it attracted opposition from four Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and even Mayor Vincent Gray, all of whom argued that capping the number of liquor licenses was too blunt a tool. The board agreed, saying that other means existed to protect residents from unruly bars and patrons.
Joan Sterling, one of the main proponents of the moratorium, said she would ask to see evidence that other tools were being used, and rejected the claim that her group was opposed to a more vibrant U Street.
“We’ve all been here through much of the revitalization, which we’ve supported, but at some point there has to be a balance and there has to be an enforcement of the current regulations,” she said.
Sterling said that the group would weigh its next steps, but it would likely consider protesting any new liquor license applications. She said they would also ask the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to enforce existing caps on liquor licenses for the Arts Overlay, a specially designated area stretching from Logan Circle to U Street.
In remarks prior to the vote, board member Mike Silverstein said he believed that a balance could be found between what neighbors and nightlife enthusiasts want.
"The 14th Street and U Street is reclaiming its full inheritance as a great urban center," he said. "For all of us, the challenge is to work to manage this rebirth, so that this neighborhood reborn can be both lively and livable."