Approximately three months after a reportedly large fight and liquor license suspension, Da Luft (1242 H Street, NE) has applied to change its liquor license from a Class C Restaurant License to a Class C Tavern License. Without getting into the fairly complex details of DC liquor laws, a tavern licensee does not have a requirement to make a certain percentage of its revenue from food sales whereas a restaurant must have 45% or more of its gross annual receipts come from food sales (here’s a helpful breakdown from our friends at Frozen Tropics from a few years ago). In other words, a restaurant has to actually serve a lot of food and a tavern does not. In many neighborhoods, ANC alcohol committees will protest and try to block tavern licenses as frequently tavern licenses are used for clubs or establishments that focus solely on alcohol sales. Da Luft initially applied for a liquor license as a seafood restaurant several years ago.
This new application comes only a few months after a reported fight at Da Luft that caused the Chief of DC Police to shut down the restaurant for days. According to a Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABRA) hearing from April 23, 2015:
“On April 11, 2015, a serious altercation occurred in the establishment (Da Luft) involving approximately 40 patrons. One patron was slashed on her leg with an unknown object inside the establishment. The fighting patrons spilled out of the establishment onto the street. It took approximately 20 officers to break up the fight. One patron was arrested for assault on a police officer. There are concerns regarding the establishment’s cooperation, or lack of cooperation with ABRA investigators and MPD, and interference with a crime scene, and an investigation”
Later in the hearing, a representative for the DC Attorney General’s Office stated that, at the time, Da Luft’s “continued operation presents an imminent danger to the health and the safety of the public.” In order to reopen, Da Luft agreed to a new security plan. All of this occurred in mid/late April and now Da Luft is attempting to change its license.
Da Luft did not respond to multiple attempts for comment.
We reached out to Christopher Seagle and Jay Williams, the co-chairs of ANC 6A’s Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee, to get their thoughts on Da Luft’s attempt to change its license. They told us that “given the recent events at Da Luft, where the city stepped in to require additional security, the ANC is concerned about this request. We look forward to hearing from the owners as to why they are requesting a change so soon after Chief Lanier closed the establishment in April.” ANC 6A01 Commissioner Omar Mahmud, who has Da Luft in his district, said that he shared these concerns and looks forward to hearing from Da Luft representatives.
Da Luft’s hearing date in front of ABRA will be on August 24th.