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If you were hoping to have a brew at the newly opened Shaw’s Tavern, you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer. Eater DC noted the absence of alcohol last week, calling it a “teensy hiccup […] that should be figured out by next week.”

More of a boozy burp, really. It turns out, the barely week-old venue is already in trouble with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), having been cited for operating without a license on account of some pre-opening festivities.

How does a tavern get in trouble for operating when it’s not even, well, operating? (Maybe ABRA agents were tipped off by the early reviews on Yelp.)

Head chef John Cochran says it’s all a big misunderstanding. He tells Y&H that, yes, the tavern did host a soft opening to a small private party; in fact, it was a charity event benefiting local victims of domestic violence. And, no, the venue had not yet obtained its liquor license. And maybe there was booze. “I can’t get into that,” Cochran says, “because they’re so many misunderstandings.”  But, operating? Well, that depends on your definition, says Cochran:

I’m assuming the definition of operation is that someone comes in, pays for something and we serve it to them. Is there a difference between operating and doing a charity event for women’s domestic violence? That’s what we did. Is there a difference between those two things? Yes. Yes, there is. Have we operated? No. Have we ever sold anything? No. Do we have a hearing coming up? Yes. Are we completely panicked about it? Yes? Am I some poor schlep that hasn’t gone into the restaurant business the last few years because I closed my own business because I didn’t want to deal with this shit? Yes. Do I have to answer these questions from you? Yes.

A simple mistake, maybe, but that doesn’t matter so much to the sticklers at ABRA. Spokesperson Cynthia Simms explains that “even with [a soft opening] you would need to have applied for what we call a one-day license and [Shaw’s Tavern] didn’t do that.”

Whether this pre-opening hiccup will delay the Cochran’s pending license application is unclear, but D.C.’s Assistant Attorney General Walter Adams calls it “bad news” for the tavern.

A scheduled hearing on the matter was postponed Wednesday until a later date.

UPDATE:  Y&H talked with Cochran again on Friday, and he had some clarification to offer about his liquor license. Cochran explains an ABRA official told him, “I have your liquor license down here, come pick it up.” He continues, “And at that point, we’ve got to pick it up with a certificate of occupancy. So we’ve got to go down to DCRA to pick it the certificate of occupancy, which takes a whole day, but whatever.” Unfortunately for Shaw’s, the tavern did not pick up either the Certificate of Occupancy or the liquor license. Thus, what Cochran calls, “the misunderstanding”.

Photo by Megan Arellano