Morgan’s Seafood Liquor License Application Update

Morgan's Seafood, located at 3200 Georgia Avenue

The issue of a liquor license for Morgan’s Seafood has been a contentious one for the ANC 1A commissioners since it first came up in January. At the May meeting, ANC 1A08 commissioner Cliff Valenti resigned from his chairperson roll as things got out of hand between Romeo Morgan and the other commissioners.

Last night, at Morgan’s establishment, a somewhat informal gathering of commissioners —  including William Jordan (1A05), LaKeisha Thomas (1A09), acting chair Bill Brown (1A06), and Valenti — Mr. Morgan and neighborhood residents gathered to get a better idea of what Morgan hopes to obtain for his business.

While the chief point of contention between Morgan and the Commission has primarily been procedural, that is not to say that there aren’t genuine concerns with potentially adding one more liquor license to a section of Georgia Avenue already awash in liquor stores.

Petworth Liquors is located directly north of Morgan's Seafood

To this point, one need look no further than the establishments directly to the north (the oddly misplaced Petworth Liquors) and the south (Georgia Ave. Market) of Morgan’s Seafood for sellers of alcohol in close proximity.

To date, the sticking point with the ANC has been Morgan’s desire to get a stipulated liquor license rather than go through the process of applying for a license as other businesses do. The problem with Morgan’s approach is that it does not give the commissioners anything official for them to consider, or provide a binding document of Morgan’s intent with his property. As such, the stated type of license Morgan has sought has changed from a restaurant license (January), to one supporting a night club (May cooperative agreement), to a tavern license (present). Last night’s meeting attempted to address this.

Interestingly, Morgan stated early in the meeting that he has actually now applied for a regular license, something he’s repeatedly refused to do to date. By taking this step Morgan is removing a huge hurdle in his pursuit to serve alcohol with his food.

Ultimately, Morgan is seeking to serve beer, wine, or mixed drinks in a restaurant type environment. He also wants to have an outdoor cafe area to increase the meager seating capacity he currently has. In order to conduct business outside, he needs to seek additional permits for public space in addition to another liquor license.

Though several residents present were quite supportive of Morgan and spoke highly of his character, there were still concerns voiced ranging from the number of liquor licenses in the vicinity, the possibility of noise from the outdoor cafe, possible changes in clientele the establishment would attract, and that liquor licenses tend to be attached to the building and not the owner should Morgan choose to leave the building at 3200 Georgia Avenue.

The only certainty to come out of the meeting was that  this subject is far from over. Now that Morgan is applying for a tavern liquor license the issue will officially come before the ANC, signs will be posted at Morgan’s Seafood, and there will be a public hearing at ABRA.


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16 Comments on “Morgan’s Seafood Liquor License Application Update”

  1. Shawn Says:

    “that is not to say that there aren’t genuine concerns with potentially adding one more liquor license to a section of Georgia Avenue already awash in liquor stores.”

    I don’t get the connection between liquor stores and restaurants that serve beer, wine and mixed drinks? They are totally different. Having plenty of liquor stores to buy beer and bottles of liquor doesn’t really factor into the discussion, for me, about whether or not a restaurant should be able to serve drinks with its meals.

    Also, what happened at that crazy meeting??

    • Kent Says:

      I’ll agree that a liquor store isn’t a restaurant, still there are concerns about the amount of business on Georgia Avenue devoted to alcohol. Temperance Hall/Looking Glass also had an uphill battle with this when they wanted to open and have a license.

      Since I wasn’t at the last ANC meeting when it got crazy, I’ll appeal to someone that was there to give details. Its my understanding that it got very heated and I did witness a similar event at an earlier ANC meeting that had this on the agenda.

      • Shawn Says:

        Although both types of businesses are related to alcohol, I don’t think they should be thought of as connected or interrelated.

        We probably need less liquor stores and would like more restaurants with licenses to sell drinks. I don’t know why we would let the problem of having too much of our retail space occupied by liquor stores get in the way of solving the problem of not having enough restaurants that can sell drinks to support their businesses.

  2. Cliff Says:

    The problem is not only with the liquor, an ABRA license allows a business owner to play loud music, have a DJ or live bands come in and play, and other things. People who live within a stones throw are concerned about this kind of stuff. Morgans only has 4 bar stools so it is not really a sit down restaurant. He wants to add outdoor seating (which is granted by DDOT not ABRA), but that adds other issues for neighbors. There is a difference between giving a liquor license to a take out business and giving a license to a sit down restaurant. The reason that Georgia Avenue is the mess that it is now is because not enough attention was paid to these matters in the past. He is not applying for a restaurant liquor license, he is applying for a tavern (something I was against for Looking Glass as well until the UNC voted to support it, in hind-sight a mistake as Looking Glass has gone way down hill)

    What happened at that meeting? Well, Mr. Morgan called me a racist while some lady friend of his kept chanting “your discriminating” over and over for starters. All I did was point out that he had regulatory violations right now with where he stores his garbage cans, and how the back of his restaurant has piles and piles of junk among other violations so how can the ANC trust he will follow rules laid out in a Voluntary Agreement? I also asked him if he would change the hours of serving alcohol outside to stop at 11pm on weekdays or something reasonable for folks who live close by but he refused. Mr. Morgan will not let people speak, and has caused chaos at the last 4 meetings, only 2 of which he was on the agenda. I resigned as chair because commissioners would not obey the rules of debate nor would Mr. Morgan, and when he pulled the race card I would expect other commissioners to draw the line and help get the meeting under control again, but none did. Situations like this are not unusual at ANC meetings, and that night I think we had 3 in a row that were completely out of line.

    • Kent Says:

      Thanks for the clarification Cliff, much appreciated.

      I also happen to agree that meetings need to be orderly if business is conducted and that support is needed from the entire commission if things get that out of hand. Having been at some of the meetings you mentioned your description of the situation is accurate.

      Regarding Looking Glass — I agree that it is going down hill rapidly. I used to try to support it as much as possible but find I don’t enjoy anything about it these days.

    • Shawn Says:

      Hi Cliff,

      Thanks for all the info. Wow that sounds like a crazy meeting. It is too bad that the other commissioners did not step in to help you get the meeting under control. I support the idea of having a beer at Morgan’s without knowing anything about the past controversy with the application or the ANC, but the way he acted at that meeting doesn’t sound very productive or admirable at all. I also haven’t given any thought to the idea of being able to play loud music or anything either. I mostly was just thinking of a drink or two with a meal.

      Also how has LGL gone downhill? I still view it as a nice neighborhood bar that you can meet a friend at for a beer. I like their $5 jim beam / natty bo special too!

  3. Kent Says:

    The City Paper covered this meeting, and it can be read here>>

  4. William Says:

    This is my first reading or hearing of a comprehensive explanation for Cliff’s resignation as chair. It unfortunate that Cliff would point fingers at other commissioners without fully taking responsibility for his role. Mr. Morgan’s behavior at the April meeting was inappropriate, in fact other commissioners and community members worked to calm Mr. Morgan down and moved him out of the meeting. However, much of the craziness at the May meeting rested with the actions of the Chair. There was so much shouting and back and forth, much of from the chair, that I did not hear Mr. Morgan or anyone else call Cliff a racist. In reading that comment here, it would not suprise me if it was said. A comment I reject. I also reject Cliff comments about the rules of debate.

    I forget the exact phrase, but the ANC’s great weight input into ABC lics has to do with peace, order and safety. Not so much other issues with the establishment, whether a particular commissioner or neighbor likes the establishment or the owner.

    Concerning Morgan’s, neighbors raised some important issues which Morgan needs to address, potential noise of the outdoor cafe and its management. The concentration and type of ABC lics is also import, tavern vs. restaurant. I did not hear neighbors raise many of the concerns focused on by Cliff with the exception of the entertainment endorsement.

    • Cliff Says:

      William – the meeting was cancelled because Mr. Morgan had not yet put in an application for a liquor license. This is clearly stated in the cancellation that was sent out to all ANC commissioners.

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