ABRA Denies ANC6B Motion to Dismiss Handle 19 Liquor License Application
by Larry Janezich
Posted February 12, 2021
Wednesday, the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) handed ANC6B a setback in their effort to prevent Handle 19 from opening a sports book operation at 319 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The Board denied the ANC’s motion to dismiss Handle’s application for a liquor license on the basis that Handle could not meet the criteria for a restaurant under their proposed business model.
DC regulations say a sports book business can’t open as a standalone, but must be associated with another operation – like a restaurant. ANC6B has no ability to protest the granting of a gaming license issued by DC Lottery, so it – in support of a number of nearby neighbors –launched two actions with ABRA to deny Handle a liquor license.
First, ANC6B filed a protest with ABRA based on “peace, order, and quiet” against the liquor license application in hopes a denial would make pursuing the proposed wagering outlet less attractive.
On a separate track, ANC6B filed a motion with ABRA to deny a liquor license on the grounds that Handle 19 did not qualify as a restaurant. The ANC’s rational was that Handle 19 did not meet the criteria for a restaurant because – given the ratio of the number of dining seats to the total occupancy of the building – Handle can’t meet the 45% gross annual food receipts as required by DC regulation.
The Board denied the ANC’s motion to dismiss application for the license on this basis “because the question of whether the establishment qualifies as a restaurant is a question … that can only be resolved at hearing, not through pre-hearing speculation” and that Board would have to consider other criteria that could be introduced into evidence. In addition, the Board noted, there are multiple ways to comply with the food sale requirement and that the regulations provides some flexibility to make corrections to operations if a restaurant is found deficient in food sales.
With respect to the ANC’s protest of the license based on “peace, order, and quiet”, ABRA granted ANC6B’s motion to put off the protest hearing until April 8, to accommodate the travel schedule of ANC6B’s counsel. That protest hearing remains on ABRA’s schedule, even though as reported earlier, on January 28, the Office of Lottery and Gaming issued an Executive Director’s Order denying Handle 19’s Sports wagering license. According to ANC6B Alcohol Beverage Committee resident member Chander Jayaraman, Handle has until February 18th to appeal.
Handle 19 has not indicated how it will respond to the denial, but it is reported to be “negotiating” with DC Lottery as was reported at Tuesday night’s ANC6B February meeting. Conceivably, there are paths forward – such as winning an appeal or reapplying – for Handle 19 to continue to pursue the wagering license.
Correction: An earlier post on CHC mistakenly stated that Handle 19 – not ANC6B – had filed the motion to dismiss the application for the liquor license. Additionally, the application fee for a sports betting application is $100,000, not $5,0000. CHC regrets the errors.