Is the Party Over? DC Issues New Rules for Pub Crawls


Aftermath of Nightmare on M Street Bar Crawl

Aftermath of Nightmare on M Street Bar Crawl

In a blow to daydrinkers and many Dupont bars, hosting pub crawls in DC just got a bit more difficult. After numerous complaints from local residents, ANCs, business groups, and DC police, the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Board last Wednesday issued emergency/proposed rules imposing new requirements for crawls in DC to “ensure pub crawls are conducted in responsible, safe, and orderly manner.” These new rules-which will expire in mid-May unless DC Council approves them- establish a new “pub crawl license” with an annual $500 fee, requires pub crawl organizers to pay for litter clean-up, and broadens the definition of pub crawls.

Although opposition to bar crawls because of noise, litter, crowd control, and public intoxication are nothing new (detailed in our story about the bans in Adams Morgan and H Street), efforts to rein them have ramped up in the past year. ABRA hosted a roundtable discussion last March, and the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (areas south of Dupont), the city’s most powerful, sent at least two letters last year complaining about massive trash and property damage issues (one clothing store had to shut down for the day) after Lindy’s Nightmare on M Street on Halloween and Project DC’s Santa Crawl before Christmas. The BID asked ABRA to put a hold on approving bar crawls until it could address these issues (Borderstan’s first reported the BID’s concerns). This seemed to prompt ABRA into action.

Security Camera Footage of Nightmare on M Street crowds

Security Camera Footage of Nightmare on M Street crowds

The new regulations will mandate bar crawl promoters:

  • Possess an annual $500 pub crawl license (starting April 1st); previously only a no-fee Board approval was required;
  • Be responsible for litter prevention/control/removal
    • Proof of signed contract with litter removal company and the subsequent payment must be shown to ABRA;
    • Litter must be removed no later than 12 hours after crawl is over;
    • DC’s Department of Public Works must approve the crawl’s litter management plan; and
  • Seek approval 45 days beforehand using a new pub crawl application form;
  • “Superintend” during the entire bar crawl without partaking themselves.

In addition, the new rules:

  • Broaden the definition of pub crawls to include organized events where bars within walking distance participate in promoting an event that features alcohol during a specified time period.
    • Previously, the bars had to offer discounted drinks to constitute a bar crawl;
  • Forbid bar crawls on St. Paddy’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, July 4th, Halloween, and NYE;
  • Prohibit bars from participating in more than one bar crawl at a time;
  • Allow ABRA to restrict a bar crawl’s size, nature, and hours, as well deny specific bars from participating in a particular crawl; and
  • Give ABRA the power to suspend bars from being part of bar crawls if they participate in an unlicensed bar crawl, or the crawls have sustained community complaints or police activity.
    • ABRA can also fine, suspend, or revoke pub crawl license holders for these issues as well as if they fail to “control the environment” of the crawl.

Only those bar crawls where organizers expect a crowd of at least 200 drinkers are required to be licensed (similar to previous rules), though Barred in DC feels this exception is not clear and predicts many disputes about this in the future if this isn’t clarified.

Although the rule has only been in place for a few days, the consequences are already apparent. On Thursday, ABRA denied applications for 3 bar crawls (sorry folks who were planning on going to the All You Need is Love, Cupid’s, and Fat Valentine bar crawls in February) by 4-1 and 3-2 votes.The folks from DC Beerathon, in contrast, had its applications for their February DC Mardi Party and March DC Leprecrawl crawls approved unanimously, pending a submission of the litter management plan before the event.

One bar-a frequent stop on many of these crawls-contacted was not aware of these new rules. Comments from bar crawl organizers were not available at the time of this post.

Comments on the new rules will be accepted until mid-February (e-mail; afterwards the Board will issue final rules that will go to the DC Council for a 90 day review period.

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