ANC6B Lawyers-Up to Protest Liquor License for Sports Betting on Pennsylvania Ave SE
by Larry Janezich
Posted December 20, 2020
ANC6B has authorized the expenditure of up to $14,000 in attorney fees for representation before the Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Administration’s (ABRA) scheduled protest hearing on a liquor license for a proposed sports betting outlet on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The hearing will probably take place next February.
ABRA doesn’t have anything to do with the gambling license which is governed by DC Lottery. The owners of Handle-19 – the city’s first retail sports gambling venue – correctly say they can open a gambling house without a liquor license.
But, the rules say you can’t just open a gambling joint – you have to have something else there as well, like a restaurant or a bar. And if you want to serve alcohol – which often goes hand in hand with betting – you need a liquor license.
Residential neighbors near 319 Pennsylvania Avenue – the planned future home of Handle 19 – are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the place from opening. They urge protesting the liquor license on the grounds of peace, order, and quiet, including the noise and litter provisions of the DC Code as well as residential parking needs,vehicular and pedestrian safety, and the effect of the establishment on real property values. They stress the outlet’s proximity to several schools and day care centers.
They hope that denying a liquor license will make the location so unattractive the owner will look elsewhere. The attorney says, not, that they will open retail sports betting with or without alcohol.
ANC6B voted 6 – 2 – 1 in November to join the protest, with Commissioners Waud and Holman in opposition. ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee Chair Chander Jayraman told the ANC on December 17, this is a high profile, precedent-setting case involving the first retail sports betting establishment in the city. He said that the neighbors and the ANC had not been able reach agreement with the owners regarding neighbors’ concerns in mediation required by ABRA, and the matter will go forward to the protest hearing. He outlined three possible outcomes:
- ABRA could deny the liquor license
- ABRA could approve the liquor license
- ABRA could approve the liquor license with operating conditions
When the city council approved sports betting for the city, it did not put any restrictions on where they could be located. Maybe they didn’t anticipate they would open on commercial strips adjacent to residential areas, and maybe they did, but didn’t care.
Last Thursday night, the ANC authorized up to $14,000 for attorney fees for the protest hearing on Handle 19, pending an agreement between other protestants clearly delineating the decision making hierarchy. That motion passed 7 – 0 – 0.