Sunday, January 13, 2013

do you know about the revisions to the DC alcohol licensing process?

The alcohol licensing process in DC has just been revised.  But I have to admit that I was not sure what the details were.

Washington Blade columnist Mark Lee comments on this topic in this week's Washington Blade. His position favors fewer restrictions, so his comments should not be considered neutral.  But he does explain the key changes to the process for businesses to obtain liquor licenses.

I have copied in a few paragraphs below from his editorial.  You can read the full editorial here.    

(I cannot speak for the accuracy of his information.)
First, the application process for new businesses will be subject to statutory timeframes, reducing the threat of long licensing delays by protest groups or ANCs used to extract operating restrictions. No longer will bankruptcy before beginning be the interventionist weapon of opportunity. Businesses won’t face coerced early closing hours, limits on music and entertainment, restrictions on outdoor space use, downsized guest counts or other prohibitions as the price of expeditious license approval.
The process remains unwieldy and inordinately lengthy. But new venues are now guaranteed a shortened process and definitive schedule. After an initial period of application announcement and protest filings, businesses proceed to an ABC Board hearing within 60 days, a new requirement.   Instead of the board having 90 days to subsequently issue a ruling, decisions will be required within 60 days.
Second, in a change more about policy implications than mere semantics, the widely reviled scourge of so-called “Voluntary Agreements” no longer exists.  Misused by protest groups to extract operating concessions and by ANCs to legislate turf rules as a perceived licensing protocol, the option for a business to enter into such an arrangement has been renamed “Settlement Agreement” – a functionally accurate moniker implying nothing else.
Third, should an existing licensee or new business reach an agreement with the applicable elected ANC, any protest by a random “Gang of 5” will be discarded. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to citizens associations, but the message is unmistakable – past shenanigans will no longer enjoy countenance.
Limits have also been placed on the types of restrictions permitted in an optional Settlement Agreement, should a business choose to negotiate rather than proceed to a now accelerated adjudication.

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