Adams Morgan residents divided over liquor license moratorium

Residents in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood have complained for years about noise, crowds, crime and other problems. Everyone seems to agree that something must be done. But just how to do that remains up for debate.

That debate played out Wednesday in Northwest D.C. at an Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearing. The board must soon make a decision about ending, extending or amending a moratorium that restricts the number of liquor licenses in Adams Morgan and the types of businesses that can hold them.

Currently, the moratorium bans nightclubs from the neighborhood and restricts the number of liquor licenses available for bars and restaurants there. But residents say many businesses are operating as de-facto nightclubs.

ANC 1C03 Commissioner Ted Guthrie said, “The crowds regularly over-consume alcohol, scream and shout at each other, play loud music, litter, damage property and urinate and vomit wherever is most convenient.”

He continued, “They require a battalion of police to keep them committing random mayhem. And this disturbance of the peace continues until 4a.m. every single weekend night!”

Set to expire this summer, many want the moratorium to be extended five years, as is.

“Already 50-percent of Adams Morgan has alcohol-related businesses in it,” Guthrie said. “How much more do you need in a neighborhood?”

But others argue the moratorium is not helping. They say it should be relaxed or rescinded because they believe other D.C. neighborhoods are developing and thriving without such regulations.

Resident Jacob Landis said, “Relaxing the moratorium allows for more business. And so businesses come in and possibly can help displace these old businesses that are causing these problems.”

Meanwhile, another group of residents has suggested a middle ground. They want the board to extend the moratorium, but allow for new restaurants in Adams Morgan.

ANC 1C01 Commissioner Brian Hart said, “Restaurants that are providing food and foot traffic and contributing to the economy in Adams Morgan can be a positive thing for our community.”

No matter what decision the ABC board makes, all of the residents testifying at the hearing seemed to agree that the District government must better enforce current D.C. law.

Following this hearing, the board will now deliberate. It must make a decision by July 12 when the Adams Morgan Moratorium expires.

The board is still accepting written public comment through Friday.