Friday, July 09, 2010

Capital City Diner Applies For Liquor License

Here's the ABRA info:

Posting Date: July 9, 2010
Petition Date: August 23, 2010
Hearing Date: September 7, 2010

License No.: ABRA-084814
Licensee: Ashburn Food, LLC
Trade Name: Capital City Diner
License Class: Retail Class “C” Restaurant
Address: 1050 Bladensburg Road, N.E.
Contact: Matthew Ashburn 202-396-3467


Notice is hereby given that this applicant has applied for a license under the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Act and that the objectors are entitled to be heard before the granting of such on the hearing date at 10:00 am, 2nd Floor, Suite 2000, 1250 U Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20009. Petition and/or request to appear before the Board must be filed on or before the petition date.

Dine in and out restaurant with a seating capacity inside of 36 and outside seating of 14. Total occupancy load of 99. Request Entertainment endorsement for inside and outside patio and to include dancing and cover charge.

Sunday through Saturday 24 hours


Sunday 10 am – 2 am, Monday through Thursday 8 am – 2 am and
Friday and Saturday 8 am – 3 am

Sunday 10 am – 2 am, Monday through Thursday 8 am - 2 am and
Friday and Saturday 8 am - 3 am


Anonymous said...

Other than serving bloody mary's, I see no reason why Cap City Diner should have a liquor license.

Anonymous said...

dancing and a cover charge?

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I'm not a supporter of this.

Anonymous said...

Can't a diner just be a diner?

Not in DC, I guess.

Anonymous said...

uh you need a liquor license to serve bloody marys, genius

Anonymous said...

Why in the hell does Capital City Diner need a liquor license? I'm not for this at all. Was this their intent all along?

Anonymous said...

As much as I LOVE the diner.I am not in favor of a liquor license."Why cant a diner be a diner",so true.

Sean Hennessey said...

Anonymous said...
Can't a diner just be a diner?

Not in DC, I guess.
i grew up in new jersey and the diners i went to there served alcohol.

Unknown said...

It is peculiar, some of the responses. I don't work for the Diner or speak for the Diner, I just eat there. If they feel they could benefit and provide a better service with the ability to serve beer, wine, or bloody marys then that's their business decision. And as one who lives here but hasn't risked his shirt to open a business, I also have to respect it. The've been a responsible business, they are helping redevelop Trinidad's west side.

I am all for anything that will help. And for the smug Anonymous folks that make dumb statements like, "Can't a diner just be a diner? Not in DC, I guess" well, they should sit down shut up and color.

I don't know of any actual diners in DC, but this one. I've live here say 30+ years. Beyond that, most places that call themselves diners server beer wine etc.

Bottom line, they applied lets give them a chance. If they server beer/wine/bloody marys the responsible way they serve food then we are totally in good hands.

-Robby of Trinidad

curmudgeon said...

The "serving alcohol" part doesn't seem odd to me.

The "dancing and cover charge" part does.


How is the diner doing these days? When I've been, it wasn't exactly full. But I don't go at what I'd expect to be peak times.

DCJaded said...

alcohol margins with dinner really help boost the bottom line. I dont see a problem. But I'm sure the knee jerk prohibitionist crowd will be at it.

Matt Ashburn said...

The confusion's understandable, so please allow me to provide some insight.

In the application process, ABRA asked what types of activities we'd like to have once we receive an alcohol license. In response to numerous requests, we've been developing a few ideas to meet the demands of the neighborhood and our customers.

A popular request is to provide outdoor dining in a patio setting. We're going to open a summer garden (for which we can obtain a license through the alcohol app. process) to meet this demand.

We're considering outdoor food-themed events (i.e.: all-you-can-eat dinner/brunch specials, crawfish boils, etc.). I was told by ABRA that charging a flat fee for such events amounts to a "cover charge," even if alcohol isn't the focus. So, to avoid any trouble, we checked the box indicating "cover charge."

Another topic that came up with customers is the ability to host fundraisers or birthday parties. After discussing this with the ABRA representative, it appeared that it could be illegal in their view for a few customers to dance (i.e.: impromptu at a birthday party) without an ABRA endorsement, even if there is no dance floor and it's not the focus of the event. Again, erring on the side of caution, I checked the box to be on the safe side. Of note, we recently lost the bid to host an event such as this due to not having an alcohol license.

Re: liquor, we plan to (eventually) offer bloody marys on the weekends during brunch hours, at the request of some of our frequent customers. There's not much storage room in our spot for much else in the way of liquor.

Those of you who've been to the diner know it's a tiny space (less than 700sq ft, including dining, kitchen, and restroom areas). These improvements will help us meet demand, while bettering our chances for success.

On that note, a previous commenter mentioned improving the bottom line. Restaurants operate on a very slim margin. A diner, especially one serving food from quality ingredients, serves food at a much slimmer-than-average margin due to the expected price point.

Here's an example: All of our burgers are made from Certified Angus ground chuck for a higher-quality product. A cheeseburger and fries sells for $6.25, of which $2.38 is food cost. With $1.25 or so towards payroll, and a little under $2 towards other expenses (utilities, rents, etc.), we're left with a profit of probably less than 60 cents.

Depending on the day's business, that small profit could be a small bit more, or a lot less.

However, if a beer sells for $5 along with that $6.25 burger, profit goes up to around $4.80. That jump in margin can mean a huge difference to a small business.

Sorry for the long-winded response, but hopefully this sheds some light and answers some of the questions.

Feel free to drop by any evening (except Monday, when we're closed) for dinner, and I'll be happy to chat with you in person. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line at

Thanks for your support, and we're proud to be a neighborhood-owned small business (employing, btw, appx 15 people from DC).

Capital City Diner

curmudgeon said...

Matt -- thanks for dropping in and explaining, especially with regard to the "cover charge" and "dancing" bits.

To make sure I understand: if someone's holding a birthday party at an establishment with some sort of liquor license, and at that event a couple of people get up on their own and dance, that's illegal unless there's an allowance from ABRA for it?

Matt Ashburn said...

@curmudgeon-- that's my understanding. We checked the "dancing" box after discussing it with a licensing specialist just to play it safe. Otherwise, no real need for it.

I forgot to add previously: we will also enter into a voluntary agreement with the local ANC.

Capital City Diner

anonymouse said...

Diner guys, most people support you in this, especially us who venture out of DC and know most all diners serve alcohol. The first few (negative) comments sound like their the same person.

IMGoph said...

curmudgeon: that precise thing (customers dancing in an establishment with a liquor license leading to legal trouble for the establishment) just happened recently to local 16 on U street and was documented by the city paper here.

so yeah, it's safest for the diner to be as broad as possible in their request for additional endorsements. given the openness of the ownership, their obvious track record so far of being an exemplary neighbor, and willingness to work with the local ANC (and we all know ANCs can often kneecap small businesses—look at what's happening to big bear in bloomingdale, i'd say the anonymous naysayers at the beginning of this thread are off-base at best, full of hateful fear mongering at worst.

barnes said...

this makes me like the diner more. and abra less.

that you have to have a special permit to charge a cover or dance seems outlandish to me.

a license for alcohol? sure. even needing a special permit for music over a certain decibel makes sense to me.

but dancing? people dance on the metro bus all the time. do they have a permit?

jamie said...

This is all good news, though I would love the option of Bailey's & coffee if the space allows it. The dancing thing is always something that puzzles me. It's the same way in NYC. I went out with some friends to a lounge called "Fun" (a misnomer), and Fun didn't have a cabaret license. They actually had a sign above the bar asking patrons not to dance. I started dancing with a friend to see what would happen, and sure enough an apologetic staffer sheepishly asked us not to dance.

Anonymous said...

A reasonable explanation. I approve.

K on K Street said...

Hi all, just curious... why are people posting saying that they're not supporting a liquor license here. It's a diner for god's sake! No offense to Matt, but it's a diner. It won't become a nightclub... they won't suddenly have thunping music at 3am, so why do you all care if they have a license?? Really? I would actually like to hear from that early responder crew. What are you worried about? Why not support an establishment that is trying to succeed - on Bladensberg for god's sake. Why the knee-jerk negative? I'm the opposite... knee-jerk positive. Not sure a license will help the diner, but if Matt wants to try it, go for it. You guys confuse the crap out of me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lets all lump the folks who are questioning the need for a liquor license at a diner into the Dr. Evil box and call them prohibitionists and Teetotalers. That will make use feel better!

If you only play an adult 9-5,M-F don't worry about it. The rest of us can handle this issue.

And they do a lot of things in Jersey which are stupid. There's a reason why you people scatter after you turn 18. DC IS NOT JERSEY AND NO ONE WANTS IT TO BE.

It's a legit question under any circumstances to question a diner needing a liquor license. It's an important question in DC given that the path to a full on nightclub is always to open a restaurant for a year and then apply for the liquor license. Once approved, you reduce the food service to microwave mozzarella sticks and you've got 500 people crammed into a small property with a DJ and dancing until 2am. Then it's adam's morgan, and one adam's morgan is more than enough.

No one's suggesting that CCD is going to put a DJ in their tiny little place. However, I think the burden was for the owner to explain the circumstances and I think that he did so. Questioning an owner of business about his business plans when requesting a permit is the responsible action for ADULTS.

IMGoph said...

and the owner did explain the reasoning behind the application.

what more do you want? stop moving the goalposts. stop bringing up asinine strawmen (adams morgan? really? soon as there are 40 bars on bladensburg road between oates and meigs i'll give that one to you. until then, note that there is no apostrophe in adams morgan, and that the premise of your fear-mongering is far-fetched and ludicrous).

to think that you could even fit 500 people into the diner (have you ever been in there? do you realize how stupid of a statement that is) is probably the dumbest thing i've ever heard from an anonymous commenter on this blog. if you're going to say stupid stuff, at least put a name to it so we can avoid attributing your loony ideas to all of the anonymous people who comment here.

oboe said...

but dancing? people dance on the metro bus all the time. do they have a permit?

Oh, one last thing:

Other than serving bloody mary's, I see no reason why Cap City Diner should have a liquor license. entertainingly self-refuting. Thanks for kicking the thread off right.

Vinita said...

Sounds like Anonymous 10:29 hasn't been to CCD. I would love to see Matt & Pat fit an extra table for a DJ then add 500 people to give those on H St a run for their money. I got to talk to Pat the other day and totally respect and admire the two for opening this diner. Take the time to stop by and grab a meal or at least check out the diner.

Hillman said...

The Diner owner's explanation seems more than reasonable to me, particularly since he is apparently good with signing a voluntary agreement with the local ANC.

DC's liquor license process is ridiculous, arbitrary, and stupid. The examples the owner cites seem well within the realm of idiotic scenarios the DC liquor board folks can dream up.

Any business that has to get a liquor license in DC has my empathy.

Jamie said...

@imgoph, I am sure that is not at all what happened at Local 16. They operate a defacto dance floor every time I have been there. They frequently have a deejay and clear the tables in the upstairs indoor bar area. They could easily prevent people from dancing by leaving the tables up.

I can't say I side with the complainants, either, though since complaining about noise on U Street is like complaining about the heat when you move to Nevada. But people dancing at Local 16 is hardly a matter of a few people just getting up and impromptu dancing for fun, they encourage it and set the space up for it.

But regardless, I can think of no reason why anyone would oppose this. I'm always amazed at the people who would stand in the way of development in such a troubled area. The risk of problems from noise (that are a decade if not more from ever being a reality) is far outweighed by the benefits that come from more reasons for people to be there.