Thursday, April 04, 2013
Moratoriums, & Shaping a Commercial Corridor
The Washington City Paper's Jessica Sidman uses the recent efforts to implement a liquor license moratorium on U Street NW to more broadly examine moratoriums and the impacts they have, or might have, in the District. It's an interesting read, and one that I think is useful to consider as we ponder the possibility of such a moratorium on H Street (none is currently on the table, but the issue comes up every so often). One of the key arguments that opponents of such a moratorium make in the article is that you can wind up in a situation where a street can become dominated by more corporate (or at least big money) operations because the liquor licenses within a moratorium zone become extremely valuable. This could then price out smaller mom and pop style businesses that may not have access to a lot of capital. According to moratorium opponents, the other type of business willing to invest in these high price licenses is a "turn and burn" bar, i.e. an establishment with a strong focus on high volume alcohol sales. Obviously, that would have the effect of either keeping licenses prices high, or driving them further up. Either way, it would make it extremely difficult for a food focused restaurant (not exactly known for high profit margins) to afford a liquor license. Without the liquor license, it can be hard for a restaurant to make the rent. The article touches on multiple issues raised by the moratorium efforts (including the idea of the magically appearing retail). I think there's quite a bit to discuss on this one. What are your feelings about a moratorium on H Street? And more generally, where would you like to see H Street headed in the next five years? What steps should we take to get there?