I must admit I was surprised yesterday by the announcement that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board denied Shaw’s Tavern a license to serve alcohol. Until I read the findings, that is. The document, via Prince of Petworth, details each step that owner Abbas Fathi and former manager Steve May messed up. (Misstep 1. Fail to get Certificate of Occupancy and DCRA license needed to acquire liquor license, Misstep 2. Try for liquor license anyway with incomplete application, Misstep 3. Get denied for liquor license, alter documents, buy booze, and start serving it! Misstep 4. Profit!)

The report even goes so far as to quote commenters from PoP and other blogs who said Shaw’s was giving away booze at its soft openings. But particularly damning is the description of how someone on staff—-Fathi claimed it was May—-altered the Notice of Public Hearing to make it look like Shaw’s had a liquor license so it could get local distributors to sell the restaurant alcohol:

Before submitting the Notices to the wholesalers, one of the Applicant’s employees altered various parts of the document. […] Specifically, the document’s heading posting date, petition date, hearing date, and the paragraph notifying the public that the Applicant had applied for a license were deleted using correction fluid. […] Based on the altered Notices, the two wholesalers sold alcoholic beverages to the Applicant.

It’s one thing to dislike the liquor laws that exist. For example, The Atlantic‘s Megan McArdle wrote on the debacle, “All liquor licensing is useless; it mainly functions as either backdoor zoning control, or as a way for existing bar owners to protect themselves from competition.”

But it’s impossible to deny that the management of Shaw’s screwed up badly. By not figuring out how to navigate the same laws that apply to liquor-serving restaurants all over the city, Fathi demonstrated pretty clearly that he wasn’t prepared to uphold those laws.

Fortunately, the space is beautiful and in a pretty sweet location; so fear not, gentle Shaw residents! I find it hard to believe it will sit empty long once he decides to put it on the market. (We know of at least one restaurant operator who’s interested in space in the neighborhood.)

Photo by Megan Arellano