Special Georgetown ANC Meeting: Water St. Crime, Grace St. Wine

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A wine shop has been proposed for the lobby of 3210 Grace St. NW.

A progress report on improving security under Key Bridge at night and plans for a wine shop in the lobby of a residential building — these two matters took up most of the special one-hour meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission on Wednesday, Aug. 9. About 20 people were in attendance.

The “unfortunate shooting” (as ANC member Lisa Palmer called the early-morning July 8 murder of a 19-year-old man from Severn, Maryland, on Water Street) has spurred a number of actions by police and the Department of Transportation, according to Palmer, who lives nearby. Those include not only the installation of new streetlights in the area but the repositioning of existing lights to face down onto the street. Also, more police patrols have been assigned to the area and surveillance cameras added.

“I get camera reports every day from the authorities,” Palmer said. “Hopefully, word is getting out that you can’t get away with low-level crimes in the area” (not to mention murder).

Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a concern of another kind has been raised. “We are proposing to open a small wine and beer retail shop at 3210 Grace St. NW and offer tasting samples — from two bottles at most — to prospective customers,” Jeff Hancock, Wine Outlet operations manager, explained to the ANC. Less than 1,000 square feet, the shop will be located off the lobby of a condo building at that address.

“We don’t expect to have more than 10 people in the shop and tasting at any one time,” Hancock said. The shop, which Hancock hopes will launch in the fall, will be open until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and until 7 p.m. on other days. There won’t be tables and chairs or wine service.

But a group calling themselves the “Grace Street Residents” are protesting the new license for the Wine Outlet under D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.

“The problem is that the door to the store is located right in our lobby. We have children and we don’t want alcohol sold on the premises and people drinking wine loitering about,” said Esther du Toit, representing the Grace Street Residents group. “Ours is a small street, a small residential community. It’s nothing personal. It’s not that I’m against wine,” she clarified. “I drink it. But we’re worried about the impact of the new alcohol outlet. Studies show that where alcohol is sold, crime goes up.”

According to the protest petition being circulated by the residents’ group, the presence of the Wine Outlet “will encourage an increasing problem of people illegally drinking and loitering on the sidewalk and street right in front of our residential building, and that other issues will substantially negatively impact peace, order and quiet. Moreover there is not enough parking to support the establishment.”

“To date approximately 90 percent of RESIDENTS … overwhelmingly OPPOSE issuance of the License on the following three grounds,” the petition continues. “It will negatively affect the establishment on real property values; peace, order and quiet; and residential parking needs and vehicular and pedestrian safety.

The petition will continue to circulate up to the Aug. 28 submission date, according to the residents’ group.

“It’s important to stress the impact on peace, order and quiet,” Karen “Cookie” Cruse, a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, told du Toit after the meeting. “Those are the magic words, the impacts the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Board pays most attention to.”

But Hancock disputed that. “In our other small stores in McLean and Vienna, not one person has ever complained,” he said. “Being able to offer small samples is an integral part of our operation. The alcohol content is less than 15 percent and there just won’t be hoards of people drinking large quantities of wine or beer. As for traffic, any large deliveries will be made between 8 and 9 a.m., and our refuse amounts to an average of one small garbage sack a day, mainly paper towels and packaging cardboard that we cut up immediately for disposal.”

A roll call hearing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m. at the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, 2000 14th St. NW, 4th floor; a protest hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 4:30 p.m., same location.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I understand the concerns of the community. I would like to say that the comments of Jeff Hancock, manager, are completely on point. The goal is to add to the community not harm it. Alcohol around our children is taken very seriously. We have young ones amongst our business family and would never set an example that we wouldn’t set for our own. The sampling offers are reasonable. Small pours. We never exceed. I sincerely hope that we can make this location work to benefit all.

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