When I spoke with Capital City Diner co-owner Matt Ashburn back in February, he didn’t rule out the idea of serving liquor but thought he’d wait at least a year or two before applying for a license. He wanted to establish his business first in Trinidad.
The news last week that Cap City applied for a liquor license (complete with cover charge and dancing) stirred quite a buzz on both Frozen Tropics and Prince of Petworth. A number of early posters bemoaned the fact that a humble diner would stoop to serving alcohol. Here are two samples from the brave, anonymous naysayers:
Why in the hell does Capital City Diner need a liquor license? I’m not for this at all. Was this their intent all along?
Yeah, sometimes you just want to eat some greasy diner food. If I wanted to go to a bar or club, I would. But I just want food, dammit. I guess I’ll be sticking to Plato’s.
AHEM, Plato’s sells beer and wine. Anyway, I got a chance to talk to Ashburn last night, and he said that applying for the license was not only a response to customer requests but also a recognition of the difficulties of running a small business.
It’s not just a matter of needing the larger profit margins of alcohol. There’s a period right after work, Ashburn says, when the diner doesn’t get the volume of business it deserves. From 4 to 7 p.m., the owner says, you can spot a lot of folks pulling into their favorite bar or pub for an after-work drink and/or bite. Without beer or wine to pour, Cap City is often dead during this time.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re not attracting the after-work crowd,” he says.
The naysayers shouldn’t worry about the pending arrival of booze. Cap City doesn’t have the storage space to become Trinidad’s version of ChurchKey. Ashburn is looking to add three or four bottles of beer, and a red and white wine, to the beverage list. He’s not sure which brands he’ll favor yet. Oh, and he wants to serve a bloody Mary or a mimosa with his weekend breakfasts. (No one uses the word “brunch” in conjunction with a diner.)
“We certainly don’t want to become a nightclub,” Ashburn tells me. “The fact is, it’s not going to become a bar…We’re just going to sell beer with food.”
For more explanation on Cap City’s decision to serve alcohol, including its application for dancing and cover charges, read Ashburn’s response on Frozen Tropics.