As the Washington Post reported Sunday, a collection of Adams Morgan residents are lobbying to cap the number of restaurants able to acquire tavern licenses in their neighborhood.
These licenses are coveted along 18th Street NW, where restaurants like Madam’s Organ, according to the Post, are having trouble meeting the 45 percent in food sales that is required of restaurants. Taverns have no such requirement.
And time is running out. The retooled food-sales requirement for restaurants went into effect in 2004, but the council built in a two-year grace period before auditors could begin checking on compliance. In December 2006, auditors arrived at the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to begin tabulating food sale receipts, and enforcement could begin sometime early in 2008, agency director Maria Delaney says.
But, despite the proposed moratorium on tavern licenses, scheduled to come before Council today, the struggling restaurants might have reason to be hopeful. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham is introducing emergency legislation, the “Restaurant Audit Sufficiency Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2007,” that would delay enforcement of restaurants’ food sales requirements for another six months.
Rob Halligan, president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, says that any delay would be “another step in the wrong direction.”
“We spent 4 years coming up with a compromise law to stop this,” he says in a statement. “We don’t need to push that enforcement out any further….They’ve known since 2004 that this was coming. The law is not designed to protect failed business models. If a restaurant can’t make 45% of its sales in food or $2000 per seat, they are not a restaurant.”