Saturday, September 6, 2008

ANC2f Votes for Single Sales Ban and Elimination of Zipcar Lot

In case you missed the scintillating ANC2f meeting on Wednesday night (and judging by the number in attendance, it's likely that you did) there were a couple of noteworthy items that came out of it. Chief among them is the controversial "single sales" ban for Ward 2, which is currently in effect under a temporary "emergency" arrangement.

At Wednesday's meeting, the ANC voted 3-1 to support the ban based on community testimony and the belief of ANC chairman Charles Reed that the issue is simply "a good law". In essence, the ban forbids the sale of any single container of beer, ale or liquor in containers smaller than (I believe) 72 oz. The purpose of the ban, as discussed by Reed, is to decrease the amount of public drunkenness and associated disorderly behavior. Though direct evidence linking single sales with the societal plagues that are said to accompany it is lacking, there was sufficient community testimony to support the ANC's vote on the ban. The lone dissenting vote came courtesy of commissioner Dustin Cole, who cited a concern that the ban disproportionately affected smaller, independent businesses. This concern stems from the fact that the P St. Whole Foods was able to successfully stave off enforcement of the ban in their store, claiming that the type of single sales that they engage in are, in effect, too pricey to be consumed in mass quantities in public. Its doubtful the local corner market could make a similar argument.

The 14thandYous are sympathetic to this argument. While we don't necessarily disagree with the Whole Foods waiver, we're curious as to what bureaucratic hoops the company had to go through in order to obtain an exemption from the ban, and question whether a small, independent establishment would have the time and financial resources to obtain an exemption. In addition, some public comments from the audience came alarmingly close to a racially tinged argument, with one citizen in attendance voicing approval for the ban by decrying the "Hispanic men who sit around all day drinking" along a particular stretch of road in the neighborhood. Certainly we can discuss an issue like this without calling out particular races for this behavior?

Done properly, and with proper oversight by ABRA, a single sales ban could have a net positive effect on community safety and aesthetics. However, its implementation needs to be undertaken carefully and with accommodations in place for local businesses in addition to the Whole Foods of the neighborhood.

The second (surprisingly) controversial issue of the evening came in the form of a complaint by the ANC against Zipcar. The complaint was twofold: One, that Zipcar was utilizing parking spaces in several locations throughout the neighborhood in violation of DC parking laws, and that Zipcar had failed to follow through on a promise to landscape and "beautify" their lot at the corner of 14th and Corcoran streets. The first issue is pretty black-and-white, and (based upon later testimony) seems to have been taken care of. the second issue however seemed to particularly irk Commissioner Reed, who was also bothered by the fact that the Zipcar rep happened not to be in attendance when the issue was addressed at the meeting. The representative, it turns out, would later appear, but Reed was set on moving forward against Zipcar, calling for a vote to have the ANC issue a letter to the DC government requesting the elimination of not only the illegal parking spaces, bu Zipcar's 14th St. lot as well. The motion passed, again by a 3-1 vote, with a dissenting vote again by Dustin Cole, who (appropriately, we might add) voiced concern over a seemingly rash action against a company whose services are used by a number in the neighborhood.

As I mentioned above the Zipcar representative later appeared, and the issue was raised again. Despite some back-and-forth with the representative, Reed was eventually satisfied with the efforts undertaken by Zipcar to landscape the lot (even offering a few suggestions of his own, including constructing a fence around the lot--is that particularly good idea?) and offered to table the earlier vote. So, rest easy Logan, cooler heads prevailed and Zipcar isn't going anywhere.

One final note from the meeting: it seems that the DC Parks Department has turned down a request from the neighborhood do construct a dog park in the (nearly vacant) school lawn at 11th and Q streets, citing an upcoming renovation of the project--a renovation, we should add, for which no timeline is available and no details have been forthcoming. Hmmm, sounds a bit odd. Regardless, Shaw resident George Kassouf, who has been leading the charge for the construction of the dog park, remains undeterred and expressed hopes that he could convince the Parks Department--who apparently did not even review the proposal--to reconsider their decision.


Anonymous said...

I have not been following the single container conversation so apologize if this question has already been addressed. Restricting purchases to greater than 75 ounces is ludicrous. Does this mean I can never buy a single bottle of vodka (750 ml or about 25 ounces)? I cannot just buy one bottle of wine at the corner store? By mandating purchases of such large quantities, we will be encouraging alcoholism, not curbing it. Are liquor stores part of this ban?

SydAjax said...

Yeah, i was confused by this as well...

14th & You said...

The single sales ban as currently under consideration will affect beer, ale and malt liquor from any store selling packaged alcoholic beverages. The idea is to reduce public drunkenness, litter, and alcoholism associated with 40s and single cans/bottles of beer. (Apparently our ANC and some council members believe that no one will switch to buying cheap six packs and drinking multiple cans at a time.) The trouble with the ban is that it could also affect sales of mixed six packs and 375 ml bottles of beer (sometimes seen with Belgian lambics or other higher-end beers). For this reason, Jack Evans has opposed the single sales ban. Though DC already has a ban on single sales of mini bottles of liquor of the size you get on airplanes, six packs of beer, wine, and standard-sized bottles of liquor will not be subject to new regulations.

Andrew W said...

Hi, just found this blog via DCist. I think eliminating the Zipcar lot is a stupid idea.

In other news, I write the New Columbia Heights blog, let's exchange links! I'm

Dustin Cole said...

The Single Sales Ban legislation (Bill 17-799) actually restricts retailers in ANC’s 2C, 2E and 2F to 1) divide a manufacturer's package of more than one container of beer, malt liquor, ale or spirits (liquor) to sell an individual container of the package if the capacity of the individual container is 70 ounces or less; (2) sell, give, offer, expose for sale, or deliver an individual container of beer, malt liquor, or ale with a capacity of 70 ounces or less, as well as spirits (liquor) sold in half-pints or smaller volumes…..(c) (1) An existing licensee may apply to the ABC Board for an exception to the restrictions in subsection (b) of this section.

Dustin Cole
Commissioner, ANC 2F-05