07 Dec 2010

Reader Poll: Would You Support A Moratorium on Liquor Licenses?

Some are saying that Barracks Row is turning into the next Adams Morgan.  Some say they welcome new restaurants and that the two-hour wait at the existing establishments suggests there is certainly a market for more.  And as retailers close or move to new locations — for a variety of reasons — questions are being raised about how to maintain a mix of retail on the historic commercial corridor.  That last issue is a complicated one, affected by countless factors.  One solution suggested is a moratorium on liquor licenses.  Read up on the discussions that have occurred so far here here and here, and tell us – would you support a liquor license moratorium on Barracks Row?

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6 responses to “Reader Poll: Would You Support A Moratorium on Liquor Licenses?”

  1. ET says:

    I don’t like things like this because I am not sure they are a helpful discussion starting point.

    I don’t want 8th to be mostly/completely food and beverage. But not because I am some NIMBY type that can’t appreciate the new “scene” on 8th. I just don’t think that an area dominated by one type of business is a healthy business environment. Restaurants bring foot traffic but that traffic has no real reason to stay and spend even more money on a given trip since you can only eat at once place at a time. Conversely, all retail and no food means busier days and no activity later in the day or at night.

    I know that restaurants, especially those with liquor licenses, have a better chance of success than straight retail if for no other reason than because of the incoming money. I also know that regular retail has a hard time even starting up because the rents are so high.

    Empty storefronts are of use to no one but I have to say that more places to eat on 8th doesn’t necessarily translate to more people/business on 8th. If you don’t want to eat, there is no other real reason to go to 8th except a few retail establishments that you may not need/want every time you want to be out and about. I do know that 8th is too small for the big time retailers (not enough week day foot traffic to bother with) so having those businesses as part of the discussion is not realistic – at least to me.

    A healthy business area offers a mix for all people, at different types of day, and for different needs. Of course 8th may be too small to scale this for a good mix.

  2. MT says:

    Who is to say what a healthy mix of businesses is?

    It would be a big blow to a landlord with an empty building trying to land a tenant if they had to have a specific type of tenant…a paint store, or a restaurant or whatever…

    It would also be unfair to an entrepreneur to say that they couldn’t open because there were too many [x] stores on that block….

    These moratoriums only serve to help larger businesses who can then control a marketplace through a legislated competitive advantage…

  3. CR says:

    It seems to me that there are a declining number of small retail models that can pull in as much in sales/square foot as a business with a liquor license. . .maybe a medical marijuana dispensary or a cupcake bakery.

    Some questions I wonder about:

    Does the unlimited availability of liquor licenses drive up rent in commercial areas, pricing out other types of businesses?

    Are commercial landlords able to sit on vacant properties until a tenant with a liquor license appears to pay the higher rent?

    Would higher tax rates for vacant commercial property provide an incentive to get the space rented, even at a lower rate, to other types of businesses?

  4. Alex B. says:

    It appears to me that all of the proposed ‘solutions’ such as moratoria or zoning overlays all make the problem worse, because these tools are blunt objects, not precise interventions.

    They will all serve to a) increase the cost of doing business, b) act as a huge give-away to existing license-holders, and c) remove any real incentive for the kinds of businesses people seem to want in this elusive retail mix.

    If you want to know why food and drink does well, consider the fact that the retail spaces available on 8th street aren’t attractive to retailers selling goods, but they’re great for food and restaurants.

    Consider the market, and your own spending habits – look at the case of Chateaux Animeaux – how often do you purchase items there? Now, compare that to how often you eat food from a restaurant?

    Consider the ‘watershed’ of these types of retailers. A restaurant can survive on a relatively small population. A pet shop likely needs to draw in more customers than that. So, more shopping retail means more customers, which either means more travel to the ‘hood, or developing more of a market (i.e. adding density) along 8th, at Hine, etc.

  5. Mike says:

    Who is driving this push for a moratorium? Could it possibly be the current liquor license holders? It seems they are the only ones who benefit from such a policy. Forget the Adams Morgan comparison. Take a look at College Park where their corrupt liquor board has essentially established a liquor license moratorium as the bar owners there have taken over the process. Now, the college town is packed to the gills with fast casual lunch spots. As usual, when something smells bad, follow the money.

  6. AB says:


    Your questions are all too rational and reasonable to be addressed in this debate. But I’m curious as well.

    As someone noted, space/rent is a big issue. For example, I have to think that a Carter’s or the like would do very well here. But where is it going to go?

    It’s good to see that support for the moratorium seems to be coming from a vocal minority.

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