- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Malcolm Ross moved to the H Street corridor about 15 months ago because it shortened his commute, but what struck him most about the up-and-coming streetscape wasn’t the choices of neighborhood bars and eateries.

“You go to the bus stop [and] there’s someone sitting there drunk, and he decides to [urinate] and you’re right there,” said Mr. Ross, a 37-year-old health care administrator. “It was one of the first things I noticed.”

That problem and others, including littering, has resulted in efforts to ban the sale of single beers and malt liquors on H Street and elsewhere in the city.

The District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted unanimously last week in favor of a three-year moratorium on singles sales — which includes half-pints of liquor — from the 700 to 1400 block of H Street. The D.C. Council now must approve the ban for it to take effect.

“For two to three years, we’ve had complaints from our constituents about all the problems caused by singles,” said Mary Beatty, of a Capitol Hill advisory neighborhood commission that initially proposed the ban. “If [people] are on the streets drinking [singles], a lot of times they are getting intoxicated on the street, sometimes urinating on the street.”

Laurie Collins, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Northwest, led a successful effort six years ago to ban singles. She said calls to police for service in the area’s three-block commercial corridor decreased from 1,500 in 2000 to 650 last year as a result of the moratorium.

“You can certainly see the difference,” Miss Collins said. “It’s really helped our community.”

In 2004 when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, was a council member, he led a successful effort to ban singles sales in Ward 4, which includes the Georgia Avenue corridor in Northwest.

The ban was blocked by a legal effort that was overturned last month by a federal appeals panel.

Mr. Fenty has sent a letter to the ABC board backing the proposed H Street ban, which also has the blessing of council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, who represents the area.

“For too long, we’ve had individuals using our curbsides and sidewalks as open-air bars,” he said. “I’m proud to support the ANC and residents to put the moratorium in effect and begin calming the chaos on H Street Northeast.”

H Street liquor and grocery owners oppose the efforts, saying the ban will ruin their businesses. An owner of Sun & Moon Grocery on H Street, who did not want to be identified, said, “No singles, out of business.”

Paul Pascal, a D.C. lawyer representing H Street stores, said the call for a ban on single sales “is more emotional than anything else.”

“A lot of senior citizens and elderly on the way home from work don’t want to buy a six-pack, they only want to buy a bottle or two. [And] if they buy six, then you’re going to have more people out there potentially drinking,” he said.

Mr. Pascal — who also helped oppose the Ward 4 ban — said a legal challenge already has been filed again in federal court in that case, and a motion to reconsider the ruling may be filed soon. He said a response on behalf of the H Street merchants likely will be filed with the ABC board as well.

Still, the H Street ban has plenty of backers, including Joe Englert, who has opened restaurants throughout the city and on the H Street corridor, which is slated to receive a light rail and millions of dollars from the D.C. government for long-awaited improvements.

The ban “gives various uses a chance to flourish,” he said. “If this place is all nightlife, you’re never going to have day. You want to have both.”

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