Death of the Liquor License Moratorium: Perception Is Reality

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Now that the Georgetown Liquor License Moratorium is set to expire in April, the perception of the town as being a troublesome place to open a new restaurant is changing.

The Georgetown moratorium — in effect since 1989 and gone April 9 — has garnered opposition from Georgetown’s neighborhood groups, such as the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Citizens Association of Georgetown, Georgetown Business Association and Georgetown Business Improvement District, which took the lead in advocating an end to the moratorium. This newspaper chimed in, too, arguing to let the Georgetown moratorium expire, with no strings attached.

Last week on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, Joe Sternlieb of the Georgetown BID and Bill Starrels of the Georgetown ANC discussed the state of the town’s restaurant business, along with Ian Hilton of Chez Billy Sud, which just added Bar à Vin as a wine bar companion on 31st Street.

Hilton is a good symbol for what is becoming the new Georgetown — he expanded here, but only after he was told a place was available. (He thought there were few, if any, spots.) In the new atmosphere, Hilton is opening another place next door.

Facing a late opening for his new wine bar because of delayed inspections from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Hilton sought the help of Sternlieb and Starrels, who alerted D.C. officials and contacted the office of at-large council member Vincent Orange, whose committee oversees DCRA. Things were smoothed out, and the work completed.

With the moratorium wiped away, prospective restaurateurs will only have to check with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and fill out a standard settlement agreement. Even in Georgetown, we do not even want any kind of so-called template in the way. D.C. regulations are strong enough.

Starrels, in comments on the radio show about the newly fresh Georgetown atmosphere, said that the end of the moratorium “makes for a freer economy.” He was pleased with the many call-ins who supported his and others’ goals. Starrels also mentioned that Sternlieb has received more inquiries about opening businesses here than usual lately — indicating that Georgetown really is open for business.

Will the moratorium’s end spark a restaurant renaissance in Georgetown — even with sky-high rents? We can only hope, as we imagined so in the Feb. 10 issue.

All of this is something we have long advocated and something that will “make Georgetown great again,” as one business advocate likes to proclaim.

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