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Shaw’s Tavern owner Abbas Fathi appeared before the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Wednesday in a bid to save his $1 million investment. The barely 13-day-old bar and restaurant ran afoul of the city’s booze regulators before it even opened and has been relegated to serving only food while its legal situation gets sorted out.

One neighbor showed up with a petition of some 500 signatures pleading with city officials to not “kill” the eatery. “Shaw Needs More Successful Restaurants,” according to the online campaign.

Liquor regulators charge the restaurant with serving alcohol without the proper permits at not one, but two soft-opening events: the first, part of ANC 2C’s  “safety walk,” and the second, a fundraiser for WEAVE hosted by Broads of the Beltway.

Testifying before the ABC Board on Wednesday, one city inspector charged restaurant management with altering official city documents to make it look as if the eatery already had its license to serve booze. Two different wholesalers provided the venue with alcohol as a result. One of the wholesalers has since recalled the sold liquor and the bar’s shelves are now empty.

Eater DC identified manager Steven May as the fall guy earlier this week, so no surprise, yesterday’s hearing was not light on May.

An attorney for the tavern, Andrew Kline, did not contest the charges: “We have no serious factual disputes.” He explained that the business is “dependent on employees” and attributed the entire mess to  “some hiring mistakes.”

Owner Fathi said that he had given the manager May total autonomy over the operation—the pair had worked together for many years at Fathi’s company Socrates Computers—and didn’t realize anything was amiss until the city showed up to cite the place. According to the liquor inspector, owner Fathi was having a beer at the bar at the time of the citation and manager May had tried to play it off as an employee taste-test of suds for sale later on.

May is no longer managing and Fathi has put a new guy in charge: John Cochran, who also appeared at Wednesday’s hearing. The new manager had one condition: “That Steven May not be involved,” he said.

A ruling by the ABC Board is expected within the next 90 days.

Photo by Megan Arellano