Tuesday I relayed the surprising discovery that many bars in Adams Morgan and nearly all H Street bars are forbidden from hosting bar crawls. Yesterday I explored how and why this restriction is imposed, and explained how a Brightest Young Things Zombie Takeover event in October 2012 led to thousands of dollars in fines for H Street pubs. However, one H Street bar, Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar, refused to settle and admit it did anything illegal, so a hearing proceeded for ABRA to decide whether a violation occurred.
At the October 2013 hearing to decide this issue, the bar defended itself, explaining that it did not offer any discounted drinks so it did not technically participate in an unapproved bar crawl. The bar’s owner, Mark Thorp, explained that two of the specials-$3 Stroh’s & $4 DAB tallboy beer-weren’t even specials at all as they were offered at their normal everyday price (according to the hearing transcript, Thorp didn’t even explain this fact to BYT; I’m sure some of the attendees would have been miffed that they weren’t actually getting a discount). The other special offered, a free shot of Bulleit bourbon, did not actually cost the bar any money, as the local Diageo distributor (who makes Bulleit) provided 2 one-liter bottles of Bulleit to the bar to give out as part of the event. Thorp claimed that this meant it wasn’t technically discounted (though he conceded a normal Bulleit drink would cost $8).
Unfortunately for the bar, ABRA soundly rejected all of Little Miss Whiskey’s arguments, finding that it participated in a pub crawl in violation of its settlement agreement. ABRA stated that “[b]y agreeing to participate in the event” Little Miss Whiskey’s “permitted BYT to act as [its] agent … [so that it] is not entitled to argue that it is not responsible for the actions taken by BYT to promote the event.” The ABRA board found the bar’s testimony unpersuasive that the beers offered weren’t considered discounted drinks due to two facts: 1) the BYT advertisement listed them as “SPECIALS”; and 2) Zombie crawlers had to “pick up a coupon book and present coupons to take advantage” of all these “SPECIALS” including those at Little Miss Whiskey’s. It further found that the free shot of Bulleit bourbon, despite it being provided for free by the distributor, was a discounted drink because it was provided for free by the bartender; according to ABRA, the “source of the beverages served by [the bartender] is completely irrelevant to the determination whether discounted drinks were offered by the bar.” The Board imposed, for all that trouble of a hearing, a $500 fine, similar to what was paid by most of the other H Street bar participants.
More about DC’s Bar Crawl Restrictions
For more insight into DC’s bar crawl restrictions, in addition to the Washington Times article from 2001 discussed yesterday, articles from 2007 & 2008 in the Washington City Paper and the InTowner about the controversy surrounding the urban Idiotarod are worth the read.
Fortunately, aside from Adams Morgan and the bulk of H Street, organized bar crawls and pub tours are still permitted in most of the city. In addition, if you want to stop at a spot in those neighborhoods, in spite of these restrictions, as part of going bar to bar, you can still do so (you just might not be able get any specials from the bars for your group as part of your self bar crawl). You can also go on unconventional bar tours like a Barred in DC Bus Bar Tour; such an event technically is not a “pub crawl” under DC regulations, as the stops are not walking distance from another. Notably, at the Little Miss Whiskey’s hearing, one investigator testified that he “walked to every single bar without physical challenges” and did not have to rely upon a vehicle or public transportation.