The Dean and DeLuca gourmet market in Georgetown.
One of the District’s oldest gay bars, D.C. Eagle.
The Alibi Bar on Capitol Hill.
What do they have in common?
They’ve all had their liquor licenses challenged before the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, known as ABRA.
The difference, though, is all but Trump have been sanctioned.
Last week, the liquor board opened the door to change that.
The liquor license for Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington is up for renewal. And a group of D.C. residents made up of clergy members and judges is asking ABRA to deny the license because the man who is running the country isn’t fit, in their eyes, to run a bar.
D.C. law says liquor license holders must be of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure,” said Joshua Levy, an attorney working with the judges and clergy members who filed a complaint explaining how they believe this does not describe Trump.
Is it political protest, municipal-regulatory-board style? Maybe.
It’s no secret that D.C. isn’t Trump country, no matter how hard he tries to make it so. See Fourth of July takeover.
But making the public take measure of him against other innkeepers is a fine way to make a point.
There are a bunch of ways to lose your liquor license in D.C., and most of them are pretty obvious.
Dean and DeLuca lost it for 35 days this spring after the board found that the emporium of the $700 bottle of balsamic vinegar was caught selling wine to Beaujolais-vintage buyers for the fourth time in four years. Selling to a minor is a common no-no.
D.C. Eagle, the iconic LGBTQ bar that holds weekly rubber/leather/uniform nights recently had a seven-day license suspension after a bouncer allegedly manhandled former mayor Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) when he tried to show his D.C. Council identification to attend an art benefit inside the bar.
The liquor board has issues with bouncers throwing people out without cause.
In 2016, good character was key in the case of the Alibi bar on Capitol Hill, said ABRA spokesman Jared Powell.
The bar had a “sad and sordid history.” It was a place well known for underage drinking, drugs and other complaints. When a “new owner” came in and tried to hit the restart button with a new license, it didn’t pass the smell test with the liquor board because the old owner wasn’t gone. “Good character” was in question here because the liquor board wanted a true clean slate. (Imagine if we did that on the rest of Capitol Hill?)
The license was granted, ultimately, after the board was assured that the bad character wouldn’t be around.
The case of Shaw Tavern also made the board wrestle with the definition of character in 2011.
The owner there was a multimillionaire real estate developer applying for a liquor license. After looking at evidence that the owner sold alcohol before he had a license — and clearly didn’t have a handle on District laws — the board denied him a license on the basis of character and fitness for licensure.
Can we just put ABRA in charge of Congress?
Now clergy members and judges are trying to remind the board about its past rulings on good character as they try to get them to yank the license from Trump’s hotel.
“Donald Trump, the true and actual owner of the Trump International Hotel, is not a person of good character,” the residents wrote in their complaint. They reached that conclusion because of “certain lies he has told, his involvement in relevant fraudulent and other activity demonstrating his lack of integrity, and his refusal to abide by the law or to stop associating with known criminals.”
The liquor board dismissed the protest last year because the license was already issued and whiskey tastings and champagne saberings were well underway at the hotel.
But this year, the license is up for renewal. And in its June 12 actions, the board agreed to hear the Trump challenge.
Now, after 34 people and three companies associated with Trump have been indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty to criminal charges, the group may have a stronger case.
Plus, there’s the Queen of Sheba.
The regally named Ethiopian Restaurant in Shaw just lost its license this week, according to ABRA records, because it didn’t pay its renewal fee. It owes the D.C. government money, somewhere around $1,000.
The Trump administration still owes the D.C. government $7 million in inauguration costs, according to The Washington Post. The ABRA folks aren’t going to like that.
Should a city agency officially rule that Trump doesn’t have the moral character to run a bar, that’ll make a great punchline, for sure.
Levy said the group’s goal is really to emphasize the rule of law, to assure that everyone, from President Trump to the Queen of Sheba, is treated equally.
But let’s be real. It will probably mean little to Trump’s bottom line. Remember, Saudi-funded lobbyists paid for 500 nights in his hotel around the 2016 election.
And with the recent good vibes he’s sharing with the Saudis, despite the slaughter of our contributing columnist, a dry hotel shouldn’t be a problem for some of his favorite patrons.