Mt Pleasant: Single free in DC since 2000

The Mount Pleasant neighborhood in DC has had a prohibition on single sales of beer and malt liquor since the year 2000. As exemptions to the Single Sale Moratorium are being considered in Wards 2 and Ward 6 we can look to evidence from the case study Mt Pleasant has created to make informed decisions.

Now that 8 years has passed, how do residents and local businesses feel about the prohibition of single sales? Did the prohibition lead to the desired quality of life affects while still allowing local businesses to prosper?

The MtPleasantDC.org website, which hosts a highly active message board that contains over 5,800 topics and 20,000 postings recently used their home page to poll the community on Single Sales. The poll asked “Do you support a continued ban of the single sales of alcohol in Mount Pleasant?” Results demonstrated that 92% of voters wanted the ban to continue.

Earlier this year the Northwest Current (Feb 20, page 9) featured an article entitled “Single Sale Moratoria: Other Neighborhoods Can Benefit From What We Learned in Mt. Pleasant.

Bans on single sales of beer and malt liquor are in place in Ward 4, on H Street, NE and still in place in Mt. Pleasant, the first location in the city to seek this relief from the ABC Board. Now comes the news that similar prohibitions may be sought in Wards 7 and 8.

The decision to seek a prohibition on single sales of beer and malt liquor was an easy one for those of us interested in alleviating the visible symptoms of this problem such as litter, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and public urination, and the pall these symptoms cast over a small local business strip.

Achieving implementation, however, was much more difficult. Local merchants were concerned about loss of business. Some neighborhood activists claimed such measures just shunt the problem to other neighborhoods. Mt. Pleasant has now had a ban on single sales for almost 8 years in its off-premise Class A (spirits, beer and wine) and Class B (beer and wine only) ABC establishments. None of these stores has gone out of business. In fact, every one of these businesses supported another 5-year extension of the moratorium at the most recent ABC Board hearing on renewal in 2005.

Positive testimony for renewal came from Mt. Pleasant ABC license-holders, residents, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Ward one Councilmember Jim Graham’s office. The Mayor’s Clean City office reported on visible improvements to quality of life issues since the moratorium was established. MPD reported a substantial drop in quality of life crimes directly related to the ban of single sales (676 in 1999 compared to 193 in 2007). The Department of Public Works reported a tremendous reduction in the number of beer bottles and cans to clean up. This made their job easier and allowed them to address other trash issues in the neighborhood. Residents testified to an improved quality of life; in particular, the reduction of beer bottles left in front of their homes and in their alleys; they felt more comfortable walking around the neighborhood; they noticed a tremendous reduction of people drinking in public, less public urination, less panhandling, less exposure to a disagreeable, unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle for our children. Residents felt it made a very positive difference, especially in their willingness to walk and shop on Mt. Pleasant Street.

Our ABC-licensed business community has shown improvement by sprucing up its stores, stocking better wines and cheeses, introducing other cuisines and improving displays. Where these businesses previously made money selling singles to a troubled clientele, they are now serving more residents who previously avoided their stores.

While the moratorium on single sales in Mt. Pleasant certainly isn’t the panacea to all of our neighborhood problems, it clearly has improved our quality of life.

The Mt Pleasant case study suggests that both the residents and ABC Class A and Class B license holders agree that the moratorium has been successful and want the program to continue. The community supports the continued moratorium at a 92% rate and in 2005 the local ABC license holders voted to extend the program another 5 years.

UP NEXT: My tour of Mt Pleasant Liquor and Convenience stores including feedback on the moratorium from one honest and frank liquor store owner.

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