Handle-19 Pulls Application for Liquor License for Gambling Spot on PA Avenue SE
by Larry Janezich
Thursday afternoon, DC’s Alcohol Beverage Control Administration notified ANC6B that Handle-19 has withdrawn its application for a liquor license for the space at 319 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, where they had plans to open a sports book gambling venue.
Neighborhood opposition had been vehement and neighbors and ANC6B were both expected to participate in a protest hearing on the application scheduled by ABRA for next Thursday. That hearing will now be cancelled.
In February, DC Lottery denied Handle 19’s sports betting application for unspecified reasons. Owner Shane August subsequently withdrew the application which allowed him to reapply – which he was expected to do after restructuring the company and paying a new $100,000 application fee. To date he does not appear to have done so, but still could.
Technically, August could open a gambling place without a liquor license, but it can’t be stand-alone. It has to have another retail component, such as a restaurant.
However, another factor in the withdrawal of the application for a liquor license may have been reports that Kodiak Properties – the owner of the building at 319 Pennsylvania Avenue – had terminated Handle 19’s lease for the property. Capitol Hill Corner reached out to Kodiak Properties but no one was available who could confirm the termination. Not having a confirmed space to operate would torpedo a liquor license application.
UPDATE: CHC reached out to Shane August for comment. August replied after the article was posted and that response is below.*
Asked for reaction, ANC6B Chair Brian Ready said, “This is what many neighbors wanted – they believed this was not an appropriate place for a gambling establishment. I would call this a win in the short run but maybe not in the long run, given the way the city council and DC Lottery has set this up.” During ANC6B discussions, the point was made repeatedly that there is neither city guidance nor restrictions on locales where gambling establishments may operate.
The ANC6B ABC Committee will hear a presentation from a DC Lottery representative at their regularly scheduled virtual meeting next Thursday. Ready urged members of the community with questions to attend.
CHC reached out to former ANC6B Chair Chander Jayaraman who has been active in the community on this issue on behalf of protesting neighbors. He said “I’m torn with what has transpired. On one hand I’m pleased to see that when neighbors and the ANC work together they can get a result the neighbors wanted. But the withdrawal provided little clarity for gambling establishments city wide. One of the goals of the case was to set a precedent regarding the appropriate location for gambling, and as the result of the withdrawal, we have no resolution.”
Liz Morin-Burns, spokesperson for a group of opposing neighbors, said she was happy but not sure the fight is over. She said, “For me, this leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Are we going to have to fight this again in six months or a year? Are they truly leaving Capitol Hill or is that unknown? I had hoped we’d get to a trial and an official saying ‘no’. This leaves the door open…we hope to work with CM Charles Allen to make sure there is some review of gambling licenses where residents have a say.”
*Today, Handle 19 made the difficult decision to withdraw its application for a liquor license at 319 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Handle 19 was looking forward to being a responsible and engaged part of the Capitol Hill community and to revitalizing a space that has sat vacant on Pennsylvania Avenue for several years. The project would have created at least 25 hospitality jobs in the midst of a pandemic that has hit that industry, and its workers, the hardest. It is particularly disappointing that the local neighbors and ANC 6B fought so hard to undermine a small and minority-owned business, and spent thousands of tax payer dollars to achieve such a goal; money that could have gone to much more productive causes, including grants for small businesses on Capitol Hill. While the project has suffered an unfortunate setback, Handle 19 still plans to move forward at another location and is in the process of exploring new opportunities. This is not the end, it is simply the end of the beginning.
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