Grace St. Wine Store Opposed

A plan to open a wine store off the lobby of a condo building at 3210 Grace St. NW is being opposed by neighbors.

“The store will be small, less than 1000 square feet, selling wine and beer retail and offering tasting samples, from two bottles at most,” explained Jeff Hancock, Wine Outlet operations manager, at a special meeting of the Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission Aug. 9.

“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 sees it differently. “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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