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Calling all booze purveyors: Glover Park just lifted its liquor license moratorium!
Well, a tiny bit at least. Last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B voted to allow two more liquor licenses for beer, wine, and spirits into the little commercial strip, going from 12 to 14—the first increase since 2008, when three new licenses were snatched up by the already-existing Surfside, Breadsoda, and Rocklands.
Even that bit of breathing room, though, required some major debate.
Faced with a row of empty storefronts and a less-than-dynamic array of establishments—a Chipotle is pretty much the most exciting thing to open there lately, and retail is scarce—Glover Park residents have been debating how best to manage its revitalization. Getting rid of the 16-year-old moratorium would bring in more bars and restaurants, but the Adams Morgan bogeyman is strong in these parts, and half the neighborhood fears becoming an unmitigated party scene on the weekends. It’s a familiar debate: Places like H Street, Barracks Row, and U Street have all flirted with the idea of turning off the taps.
In Glover Park, the spectrum of opinions is as broad as any. Resident Joe Kildea wanted to the neighborhood emulate West Dupont in tossing the moratorium on restaurant-class licenses altogether. “We’re getting smoked by other neighborhoods, and it’s painfully obvious when you come to meetings to see why,” Kildea said. Commissioner Brian Cohen conceded that allowing more restaurants would help fill neighborhood vacancies, but asked, “the question is for whom.”
The sole commissioner to vote against the motion extending the moratorium, Ben Thielen, sees the rise of nightlife in other neighborhoods as a good omen for Glover Park—with destinations like H Street and Adams Morgan making a name for themselves as nightlife hotspots, clubs aren’t likely to overrun the Metro-less Glover Park area. Furthermore, he thinks that even without a moratorium, “We can distinguish between good places and bad places like Third Edition,” a reference to the Georgetown bar recently in the news for serving minors.
Glover Park’s wariness of the Jumbo Slice aesthetic goes back to the 1980s, when the neighborhood spent some time as a nightlife destination. “It left people with a bad taste in their mouths,” said Commissioner Jackie Blumenthal. Several years after Georgetown established its own moratorium, Blumenthal said Glover Park followed suit in order to prevent the nightlife from moving a few doors up Wisconsin Avenue. “It was an effort to protect ourselves, based on bad experiences.”
Since then, the ANC took a piecemeal approach to easing the moratorium. Beginning in 2001, they have gradually been expanding both the type and quantity of licenses available. “The key is management,” said Blumenthal. “And that’s what the moratorium allows us to do, is manage.”
It’s worth pointing out that there are other ways to manage the effect of bars and restaurants on a neighborhood: Voluntary agreements, as blunt an instrument as they are, force restaurants to play nice with the neighbors. And there are all sorts of strategies—-like sound-proofing, garbage truck coordination, and best practices for responsible alcohol service—-that make bars less of a burden.
So, best of luck to Glover Park in filling those vacancies at a time when independent retail isn’t doing so hot. Bookstores are disappearing from the rest of the city; maybe one will want to open there.