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If you live in the District and like getting your drink on, it may be your fault that three D.C. establishments are in trouble.
Three faintly lit watering holes, Jo Jo Restaurant & Bar and The Saloon on U Street, and Bobby Lew’s Saloon in Adams Morgan, are getting scrutinized by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board today because their customers don’t order enough grub. The businesses failed to meet food sales of either $2,000 per occupant or 45% of gross annual receipts. That’s not okay if you happen to have a restaurant-class license.
One can argue, of course, that it’s D.C.’s liquor license tyrants that have really caused the problem. Tavern licenses in specific, but liquor licenses in general, are notoriously hard to get, because neighborhoods fear becoming pits of debauchery and all that. That means owners don’t hesitate when it comes down to scoring a liquor license that may not be appropriate for their nightlife destination. Restaurant licenses are supposed to allow some alcohol sales alongside mostly food; the places in question may be more like bars than restaurants.
As conflicts over liquor licenses brew, it’s becoming apparent that there’s an inevitable culture clash coming in the District. Though issues about gentrification have taken center stage in the wake of an election that helped alert many to the obvious fact that race and class are ongoing problems in the District, that’s not the conflict I mean. While everyone in the city seems to want safe streets, better schools, and honest government, ideas as to what sort of city will develop in the wake of those triumphs differ. While some seem to envision D.C. becoming another boozy, fun, and hip Manhattan—where you can stumble from bar to bar—others see it becoming another somnolent and affable Hartford, Conn. Barring some kind of east-west demarcation, one of these visions will have to win out.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery