H2O Restaurant & Lounge can stay open, providing it adheres to earlier closing times on Friday and Saturday nights for the next 30 days, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ruled on Wednesday.
On May 27, a patron was fatally shot outside the waterfront “restaurant” after an argument that allegedly began inside the establishment’s VIP room. Later that day, police chief Cathy Lanier issued an emergency suspension of H2O’s liquor license.
Then, on June 6, the board allowed owner Abdul Khanu to reopen on a provisional basis, requiring him to close his doors by 1:30 a.m. (prior to the shooting, the restaurant could stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights).
In a statement before the Board Wednesday, H2O attorney Roderic L. Woodson requested a reinstatement of the restaurant’s original hours. “If the business is restricted from its hours of operation, it might not survive,” he said.
But the Board stopped short of granting Woodson’s wish. For the next 30 days, H2O must close by 2:30 a.m., the Board ruled. “We do this conditionally,” Board chair Charles Burger said, noting that the Board was “impressed” by Khanu’s efforts to enhance security.
Meanwhile, late last week, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells sent a letter to Maria Delaney, the alcohol administration’s director, saying he was “concerned to learn that H2O is substantially out of compliance” with its required food sales quota.
“I have just seen a report stating that only 12 percent of the total sales for H2O for the last quarter are related to food,” he wrote, which is “well below the required 45 percent for a ‘CR’ [restaurant] license. It appears H2O operates more similarly to a nightclub than a restaurant, also charging a $20 entrance fee well after midnight—-not a known standard practice for city restaurants.”
Delaney said the agency is currently conducting audits on food sales at area restaurants.