The Big Chair in Ward 8. Photo by Darrow Montgomery/file.

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Think of opening a restaurant like a track and field event. You know which one—the hurdles. The process includes picking a name, wooing investors, finding the right contractor, obtaining permits, hiring staff, and so on. One of the more challenging steps is acquiring a liquor license through D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. A large percentage of operators hire an attorney to shepherd them through that process. 

The Veritas Law Firm, which has well over 100 hospitality industry clients, handles about 50 licenses per year. They typically charge a couple thousand dollars in attorneys fees to help an operator obtain a liquor license, which can also mean navigating mediation proceedings with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. 

Today, The Veritas Law Firm co-owners Scott Rome and Andrew Kline announced that they’re willing to waive their attorneys fees for any restaurant willing to open east of the river in Wards 7 and 8. Despite a population of close to 160,000, there are less than ten full-service restaurants in both wards combined. The Washingtonians living in these communities, which are largely considered food deserts, are hungry for more options. 

“It’s something that should be addressed,” Rome says. He mentions the limited number of full-service grocery stores, the lack of delivery food choices, and the small number of restaurants currently in operation. “What we do is help people get brick and mortar restaurants open. One obstacle is people not wanting to lay out all the fees. I want to try to help lessen that burden in any way I can.”

Rome says Kline met with Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White and Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray to explore how The Veritas Law Firm could help. “This is just the first thought,” Rome says. “We’re hoping to do more. There are all these little charges that people don’t think about when you open a restaurant.” 

There’s no specific timeline for how long this incentive will be in place. “As long as it’s needed, I want to make it available,” Rome says.