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Last month, Y&H was feeling pretty good about himself. With a little old-fashioned phone work and stubbornness, he was able to answer a question that had mystified Georgetown Wine and Spirits for weeks: Would the package store need to honor the new ban on single beer sales in Ward 2 or could it continue to operate under its voluntary agreement with the Georgetown ANC, which allowed the place to sell high-end bombers and Belgians priced at $4.99 or higher?
Back in February, Cynthia Simms, community resource officer with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, said that ANC voluntary agreements take precedence over the new law, which meant that Georgetown W&S could avoid the onerous waiver process and still continue to sell single beers. All it would need to do is appear before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board with a copy of its voluntary agreement.
Well, for James Ackerman, wine manager for Georgetown, that presented a problem. He couldn’t find his ANC agreement. Nor could the ANC, and when Ackerman and his boss tried to contact ABRA, the city said it didn’t have a copy of the agreement either. What’s more, Ackerman told Y&H this week that Simms informed him that, should he miraculously find his ANC agreement, Georgetown W&S would still have to go through the multi-step application process to secure an official waiver to the ban.
As soon as I could, I got on the phone with Simms at ABRA. She didn’t recall telling me that licensees like Georgetown W&S could skip the waiver process if it just presented its ANC agreement to the ABC Board. She did say that ANC agreements still trump the new law, but that all licensees must go through the waiver process regardless.
So how burdensome is the waiver process? As I wrote in February, stores must have a letter of support from their ANC; they must not have broken any liquor laws for the past 12 months; they must prove the exemption will not adversely impact the neighborhood; and they must show community involvement. If a store can do all that, the ABC Board will exempt it.
You can understand why a store that, only months ago, was happily selling high-end microbrews to the Georgetown set wouldn’t want to jump through all these hoops just resume the business.
It’s situations like this that give bureaucrats a really bad name.