Another Moratorium Bites the Dust – This Time 17th Street

The 17th Street Liquor License Moratorium has officially bit the dust after 23 years. After a split 3-2 decision by the ABRA Board this week, all liquor license types are now officially available for new licensees on the charming street in Dupont (full disclosure: Barred in DC lived on the street for 5 years); there are no caps on any types of licenses, including taverns and nightclubs.

Restrictions on granting any nightclub licenses as a part of a revised moratorium were sought by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, one ANC commissioner, and a local resident, but only two ABRA members supported doing so. Instead, the majority of the ABRA Board sided with the opinion given by the ANC 2B (which voted 4-1-2 earlier this year not to seek renewal of the moratorium), agreeing that a “new direction” was warranted for the street.

The ABRA opinion stated

ANC 2B, in concert with the DCCA, residents, and the industry have been able to work
together over the years to address many of the negative consequences associated with taverns and nightclubs. Like the ANC, the Board believes that if managed properly, a thriving and safe nightlife can act as an economic engine by attracting new businesses and restaurants, diversifying the range of cultural offerings, creating employment opportunities, and increasing tourism.

The Board also agrees with the ANC that many of the concerns raised by the proponents of a moratorium can be addressed by utilizing the protest process or entering into settlement agreements with terms that benefit the industry and neighborhood alike. Additionally, the Board will always exercise its authority to place conditions on licenses where it is appropriate to do so.

The moratorium had been weakened already in 2014 where restrictions on restaurant and liquor store licenses had been lifted (possibly paving the way for the beer/wine-selling Safeway).

Only four moratoriums remain in DC (Georgetown’s restrictions since 1989 were lifted in 2016:

  • West Dupont;
    • Since 1996
    • Expires in 2019
    • No night club licenses
  • Adams Morgan
    • Since 2000
    • Expires currently Sept 2018
    • No new tavern licenses
    • No nightclub licenses period
    • Limit of 10 total tavern licenses
  • Glover Park
    • Since 1999
    • Expires in 2022
    • No new tavern or nightclub licenses
  • Langdon Park (near Echostage at NY Ave NE)
    • Since July 2017
    • Expires in 2020
    • Limit of 3 nightclub/multipurpose licenses.
    • No new entertainment endorsements for restaurants and tavern licenses

 

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Yes, Dogs Aren’t Allowed on DC Bar/Restaurant Patios. Blame the FDA.

Brody the Pug, on b DC Penn Quarter’s patio,  may no longer be a scofflaw soon (Credit Twitter user @jasminechaneats & follower @LowHeadways, and https://www.instagram.com/brodythepug/)

If you’ve been under a DC social media rock since last week, you may have missed the consternation about the outrageous conduct of the government. No, it’s not [insert whatever about the administration], it’s the banning of dogs from two popular Columbia Heights / Park View bar patios by the DC Department of Health. As reported by PoPville and Jessica Sidman, DC Department of Health inspectors have recently paid visits to Wonderland Ballroom and The Midlands, responding to consumer complaints to use their legal authority to tell these bars to stop allowing dogs on their patios.

Yes, even though it’s been reported (and barely mentioned) by the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper the past two years, and a Dupont bakery suffered a patio closure because of their dogs, no one seems to have realized that dogs (or any non-service animals for that matter) are not allowed on bar/restaurant patios if food is served.  The DC Department of Health has repeatedly stated that they enforce the provision when it’s observed, based on the operative legal provision (Section 3214 of the DC Food Code), which states:

live animals shall not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment

(with exceptions for police dogs, service animals, and (hilariously) seafood on ice or in aquariums). Definitions in the Food Code (Section 9901) make clear that this applies to any restaurant/bar that serves food (unless only something like bags of chips) and includes any physical structures, land, and/or property under the spot’s control.

What may be even more surprising is that DC just didn’t make this up out of thin air; instead DC is simply following the FDA’s guidance on this. In fact, the text of the rule is basically verbatim with the FDA’s model Food Code, which was last updated in 2013 (See Section 6-501.115 on pp 187-88). According to the FDA, its “Food Code is a model [that] represents FDA’s best advice for a uniform system of provisions that address the safety and protection of food offered at retail and in food service.”

So, why does FDA believe that animals shouldn’t be allowed where food is served? This is why, in their own words (see p. 536):

Animals carry disease-causing organisms and can transmit pathogens to humans through direct and/or indirect contamination of food and food-contact surfaces. ….

Animals shed hair continuously and may deposit liquid or fecal waste, creating the need for vigilance and more frequent and rigorous cleaning efforts.

However, thanks to the outcry (as of Tuesday night, the three PoPville stories about this issue had generated nearly 500 comments), Brianne Nadaeu’s office, the Councilwoman for the Ward in charge of the two busted spots, has already put out a statement expressing intention to change the law/regulation to allow dogs on patios. Owing to the overwhelming support for something like this (See-2/3 of respondents in Twitter poll favored removing legal restrictions to dogs-mostly unfettered; only 16% favored status quo ban) despite the FDA’s guidance on this, expect the rules to change to allow variances at the least.

Experiences elsewhere may provide some hint on what’s going to follow. Arlington banned dogs on patios until 2013 when the health department there changed their policy and allowed spots to apply for variances (which requires submission of a plan) and a protest attended by 150 people changed the policy similarly to allow a variance in Alexandria in 2004 (which is a must there). Nationwide, dogs on patios were legalized in California in 2015 (but local ordinances can still ban it) and in Chicago in 2008; Michigan and Ohio are considering it. New York City, which legalized dogs on patios in March 2016 (after opposing the NY State law that allowed it), requires dog permitting patios to alert customers that dogs must licensed and vacinnated, and create barriers between sidewalk and patio (for passing dogs).

Still, even when DC change its rules, don’t expect every Tom, Dick, and Harry beer garden/patio to allow dogs on their patios. At least one bar has banned them in the past after first allowing them, and one bar owner has told me that they are wary of poor behavior (both by dogs and owners) and complaints about allergies. That being said, this will be a welcome legalization for the many DC bar patios who have been (flagrantly or unintentionally) violating these rules for years with yappy hours and such as well as the many dog owners who enjoy a drink with their pups.