Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter II. Qualification of Establishment.


§ 25–311. General provisions — Qualification of establishment.

(a) Unless expressly stated otherwise in this chapter, the applicant shall bear the burden of proving to the satisfaction of the Board that the establishment for which the license is sought is appropriate for the locality, section, or portion of the District where it is to be located; provided, that if proper notice has been given under subchapter II of Chapter 4, and no objection to the appropriateness of the establishment is filed with the Board, the establishment shall be presumed to be appropriate for the locality, section, or portion of the District where it is located.

(b) Before evaluating the appropriateness of the establishment for which the license is sought, the Board shall ensure that the applicant has complied fully with the notification requirements set forth in § 25-422 [repealed].

(c) No license, except a solicitor’s license, shall be issued to an applicant unless the applicant has a valid certificate of occupancy for the premises in which the establishment is located and has all other licenses and permits required by law or regulation for its business.

(d) If a temporary license is sought for an outdoor event or a private residential home used for non-commercial purposes, the applicant shall not be required to provide a valid certificate of occupancy.

(e) The definition of full-service grocery store as set forth in [§ 25-101(22A)] shall apply to license applications being considered by the Board for approval that were submitted on or after January 14, 2013.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 327, ch. 4, § 14; Aug. 25, 1937, 50 Stat. 802, 803, ch. 766, §§ 1, 2; June 15, 1938, 52 Stat. 691, ch. 396, § 3; June 29, 1953, 67 Stat. 103, ch. 159, § 404(e), (f); Aug. 2, 1968, 82 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 90-450, title IV, § 404; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-146, § 4, 27 DCR 4753; Sept. 29, 1982, D.C. Law 4-157, §§ 8, 15, 29 DCR 3617; Mar. 8, 1984, D.C. Law 5-51, § 2(b)(4), (c), 30 DCR 5927; June 29, 1984, D.C. Law 5-97, § 2, 31 DCR 2556; Mar. 7, 1987, D.C. Law 6-217, § 9, 34 DCR 907; June 5, 1987, D.C. Law 7-7, § 2, 34 DCR 2640; Oct. 3, 1992, D.C. Law 9-174, § 2(b), (c), 39 DCR 5859; May 24, 1994, D.C. Law 10-122, § 2(f), 41 DCR 1658; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(q)(2), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-39, § 2, 46 DCR 6548; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959; Sept. 30, 2004, D.C. Law 15-187, § 101(j), 51 DCR 6525; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-260, § 2(c)(2), 64 DCR 2079.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-311.

1973 Ed., § 25-115.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 25-361.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 15-187, in subsec. (c), deleted “or a temporary license” following “solicitor’s license”; and added subsec. (d).


§ 25–312. Defining size of area relevant to determination of appropriateness.

(a) The Board shall determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether the locality, section, or portion proposed by the applicant is a competent measure for determining the appropriateness of the establishment and, if not, shall identify the proper boundaries of the locality, section, or portion for evaluating the application. In making this determination, the Board shall consider the overall characteristics of the area, including population, density, and general commercial and residential activities.

(b) In establishing any geographic boundaries required by this title, the Board shall measure the specified distance in an arc from each corner of the lot or parcel on which the establishment is located, connecting the arcs by tangent lines.

(c) If the Board is required to state the distance between one or more places, (such as the actual distance of one licensed establishment from another or the actual distance of a licensed establishment from a school), the distance shall be measured linearly and shall be the shortest distance between the property lines of the places.

(d) If a boundary line measured by the Board touches upon any portion of a parcel or lot, the parcel or lot shall be within the area being identified by the Board.

(e) In submitting evidence of appropriateness, the applicant shall propose the boundaries of the locality, section, or portion to be considered.

(f) Any person may submit written objections to the boundaries proposed by the applicant or a written proposal listing alternative boundaries for consideration by the Board.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 327, ch. 4, § 14; Aug. 25, 1937, 50 Stat. 802, 803, ch. 766, §§ 1, 2; June 15, 1938, 52 Stat. 691, ch. 396, § 3; June 29, 1953, 67 Stat. 103, ch. 159, § 404(e), (f); Aug. 2, 1968, 82 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 90-450, title IV, § 404; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-146, § 4, 27 DCR 4753; Sept. 29, 1982, D.C. Law 4-157, §§ 8, 15, 29 DCR 3617; Mar. 8, 1984, D.C. Law 5-51, § 2(b)(4), (c), 30 DCR 5927; June 29, 1984, D.C. Law 5-97, § 2, 31 DCR 2556; Mar. 7, 1987, D.C. Law 6-217, § 9, 34 DCR 907; June 5, 1987, D.C. Law 7-7, § 2, 34 DCR 2640; Oct. 3, 1992, D.C. Law 9-174, § 2(b), (c), 39 DCR 5859; May 24, 1994, D.C. Law 10-122, § 2(f), 41 DCR 1658; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(q)(2), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-39, § 2, 46 DCR 6548; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-312.

1973 Ed., § 25-115.


§ 25–313. Appropriateness standard.

(a) To qualify for issuance, renewal of a license, transfer of a license to a new location, or an application for the approval of a substantial change in operation as determined by the Board under § 25-404, an applicant shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Board that the establishment is appropriate for the locality, section, or portion of the District where it is to be located.

(b) In determining the appropriateness of an establishment, the Board shall consider all relevant evidence of record, including:

(1) The effect of the establishment on real property values;

(2) The effect of the establishment on peace, order, and quiet, including the noise and litter provisions set forth in §§ 25-725 and 25-726;

(3) The effect of the establishment upon residential parking needs and vehicular and pedestrian safety; and

(4) In the case of a license renewal, the provisions of this subsection and § 25-315.

(c)(1) The requirements of this section shall not apply to applicants for a solicitor's license, temporary license, festival license, pub crawl license, or farmer's market license.

(2) Applicants for a caterer’s license shall apply according to the procedures under Chapter 20 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.

(d) No license shall be issued for an outlet, property, establishment, or business which sells motor vehicle gasoline or which holds a Motor Vehicle Sales, Service, and Repair endorsement under § 47-2851.03(c)(9) [now § 47-2851.03(a)(9)] or an Environmental Materials endorsement under § 47-2851.03(c)(4) [now § 47-2851.03(a)(4)] to its master [basic] business license.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 327, ch. 4, § 14; Aug. 25, 1937, 50 Stat. 802, 803, ch. 766, §§ 1, 2; June 15, 1938, 52 Stat. 691, ch. 396, § 3; June 29, 1953, 67 Stat. 103, ch. 159, § 404(e), (f); Aug. 2, 1968, 82 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 90-450, title IV, § 404; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-146, § 4, 27 DCR 4753; Sept. 29, 1982, D.C. Law 4-157, §§ 8, 15, 29 DCR 3617; Mar. 8, 1984, D.C. Law 5-51, § 2(b)(4), (c), 30 DCR 5927; June 29, 1984, D.C. Law 5-97, § 2, 31 DCR 2556; Mar. 7, 1987, D.C. Law 6-217, § 9, 34 DCR 907; June 5, 1987, D.C. Law 7-7, § 2, 34 DCR 2640; Oct. 3, 1992, D.C. Law 9-174, § 2(b), (c), 39 DCR 5859; May 24, 1994, D.C. Law 10-122, § 2(f), 41 DCR 1658; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(q)(2), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-39, § 2, 46 DCR 6548; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959; Oct. 1, 2002, D.C. Law 14-190, § 1702(f), 49 DCR 6968; Sept. 30, 2004, D.C. Law 15-187, § 201(a), 51 DCR 6525; Oct. 30, 2018, D.C. Law 22-165, § 2(c)(3), 65 DCR 9366.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-313.

1973 Ed., § 25-115.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 25-101, § 25-316, § 25-361, § 25-404, § 25-433, and § 25-446.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-190, in subsec. (a), substituted “, transfer of a license to a new location,” for “, new owner license renewal,”.

D.C. Law 15-187 designated the existing text of subsec. (c) as par. (1); and added par. (2) of subsec. (c).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 1702(f) of Fiscal Year 2003 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2002 (D.C. Act 14-453, July 23, 2002, 49 DCR 8026).


§ 25–314. Additional considerations for new license application or transfer of license to a new location.

(a) In determining the appropriateness of an establishment for initial issuance of a license or a transfer of a license to a new location, the Board shall also consider the following:

(1) The proximity of the establishment to schools, recreation centers, day care centers, public libraries, or other similar facilities;

(2) The effect of the establishment on the operation and clientele of schools, recreation centers, day care centers, public libraries, or other similar facilities; and

(3) Whether school-age children using facilities in proximity to the establishment will be unduly attracted to the establishment while present at, or going to or from, the school, recreation center, day care center, public library, or similar facility at issue.

(4) Whether issuance of the license would create or contribute to an overconcentration of licensed establishments which is likely to affect adversely the locality, section, or portion in which the establishment is located.

(b)(1) No license shall be issued for any establishment within 400 feet of a public, private, or parochial primary, elementary, or high school; college or university; or recreation area operated by the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, except as provided in paragraphs (2) through (9) of this subsection.

(2) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to a restaurant, hotel, club, caterer's, bed and breakfast, or temporary license.

(3)(A) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply if there exists within 400 feet a currently-functioning establishment holding a license of the same class at the time that the new application is submitted.

(B) The exception to the 400-foot restriction in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph shall not apply if the currently operating establishment holding a license of the same class is exempt from the 400-foot restriction under paragraph (8) of this subsection.

(4) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply if:

(A) The applicant applies for an off-premises retailer’s license, Class B;

(B) The primary business and purpose of the establishment is the sale of a full range of fresh, canned, and frozen food items, and the sale of alcoholic beverages is incidental to the primary purpose;

(C) The sale of alcoholic beverages constitutes no more than 15% of the total volume of gross receipts on an annual basis;

(D) The establishment is located in a C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, or C-5 zone or, if located within the Southeast Federal Center, in the SEFC/C-R zone;

(E) The establishment is a full service grocery store which is newly constructed with a certificate of occupancy issued after January 1, 2000, or is an existing store which has undergone renovations in excess of $500,000 (i) after January 1, 2000 and prior to [March 8, 2006], or (ii) during the preceding 12 months in which an application is made;

(F) The opinion of the ANC in which the establishment is located has been given great weight as specified in Chapter 4 [of this title]; and

(G) The applicant does not hold a manufacturer’s or wholesaler’s license.

(5) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply where the main entrance to the college, university, or recreation area, or the nearest property line of the school is actually on or occupies ground zoned commercial or industrial according to the official atlases of the Zoning Commission of the District of Columbia.

(6) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to an application for a retailer's license, class IA or IB.

(7) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to an applicant for a retailer's license, class B, if the applicant's establishment will be located inside of a hotel and will have no direct public access to the street or the outside of the hotel's building.

(8) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to an application for an on-premises retailer's license, class CT, DT, CX, or DX, or an off-premises retailer's license, class A or B, located in the Mixed Use-12 Zone, Square 473 according to the official atlases of the Zoning Commission of the District of Columbia.

(9) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to an application for an on-premises retailer's license, CR, DR, CH, DH, CT, DT, CX, or DX, where the establishment will be located entirely on a college or university campus and will not have direct public access to the street or the outside of the college's or university's main entrance.

(c) In the case of applications for nightclub or tavern licenses, the Board shall consider whether the proximity of the establishment to a residence district, as identified in the zoning regulations of the District and shown in the official atlases of the Zoning Commission for the District, would generate a substantial adverse impact on the residents of the District.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 327, ch. 4, § 14; Aug. 25, 1937, 50 Stat. 802, 803, ch. 766, §§ 1, 2; June 15, 1938, 52 Stat. 691, ch. 396, § 3; June 29, 1953, 67 Stat. 103, ch. 159, § 404(e), (f); Aug. 2, 1968, 82 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 90-450, title IV, § 404; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-146, § 4, 27 DCR 4753; Sept. 29, 1982, D.C. Law 4-157, §§ 8, 15, 29 DCR 3617; Mar. 8, 1984, D.C. Law 5-51, § 2(b)(4), (c), 30 DCR 5927; June 29, 1984, D.C. Law 5-97, § 2, 31 DCR 2556; Mar. 7, 1987, D.C. Law 6-217, § 9, 34 DCR 907; June 5, 1987, D.C. Law 7-7, § 2, 34 DCR 2640; Oct. 3, 1992, D.C. Law 9-174, § 2(b), (c), 39 DCR 5859; May 24, 1994, D.C. Law 10-122, § 2(f), 41 DCR 1658; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(q)(2), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-39, § 2, 46 DCR 6548; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959; Sept. 30 2004, D.C. Law 15-187, § 201(b), 51 DCR 6525; Mar. 8, 2006, D.C. Law 16-53, § 2, 53 DCR 3; Mar. 14, 2007, D.C. Law 16-271, § 2, 54 DCR 854; Oct. 20, 2011, D.C. Law 19-23, § 2(c), 58 DCR 6509; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-260, § 2(c)(3), 64 DCR 2079; Oct. 30, 2018, D.C. Law 22-165, § 2(c)(4), 65 DCR 9366.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-314.

1973 Ed., § 25-115.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 25-404, § 25-433, and § 25-446.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 15-187 rewrote par. (2) of subsec. (b) which had read as follows: “(2) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to hotel licenses, club licenses, or temporary licenses.”

D.C. Law 16-53 added subsec. (b)(4).

D.C. Law 16-271, in subsec. (b)(1), substituted “District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, except as provided in paragraphs (2) through (5) of this subsection” for “D.C. Department of Recreation”; rewrote subsec. (b)(2); and added subsec. (b)(5). Prior to amendment, subsec. (b)(2) read as follows: “(2) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to hotel licenses, club licenses, caterer’s licenses, or temporary licenses.”

D.C. Law 19-23, in subsec. (b)(4)(D), substituted “or, if located within the Southeast Federal Center, in the SEFC/C-R zone;” for a semicolon.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of Southwest Waterfront Exemption Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Act 22-327, May 3, 2018, 65 DCR 5044).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of Southwest Waterfront Exemption Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-103, July 13, 2017, 64 DCR 6719).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of Commercial Exception Clarification Emergency Act of 2006 (D.C. Act 16-525, December 4, 2006, 53 DCR 9820).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(c) of Southeast Federal Center/Yards Non-Discriminatory Grocery Store Emergency Act of 2010 (D.C. Act 18-674, December 28, 2010, 58 DCR 130).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of Southwest Waterfront Exemption Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Law 22-136, July 17, 2018, 65 DCR 5771).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of Southwest Waterfront Exemption Temporary Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Law 22-20, Sept. 20, 2017, 64 DCR 7424).

Section 2 of D.C. Law 16-297, in subsec. (b), in par. (1), substituted “District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation; except, that:” for “D.C. Department of Recreation”, and amended par. (2) and added par. (5) to read as follows:

“(2) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply to a restaurant, hotel, club, caterer’s, or temporary license.”

“(5) The 400-foot restriction shall not apply where the main entrance to the college, university, or recreation area, or the nearest property line of the school is actually on or occupies ground zoned commercial or industrial according to the official atlases of the Zoning Commission for the District of Columbia.”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 16-297 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Section 2(c) of D.C. Law 18-346, in subsec. (b)(4)(D), substituted “or, if located within the Southeast Federal Center, in the SEFC/C-R zone;” for a semicolon at the end.

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 18-346 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.


§ 25–315. Additional considerations for renewal of licenses.

(a) If proper notice has been given, as provided in subchapter II of Chapter 4, and no objection to the appropriateness of the establishment is filed, the establishment shall be presumed to be appropriate for the locality, section, or portion of the District where it is located.

(b)(1) The Board shall consider the licensee’s record of compliance with this title and the regulations promulgated under this title and any conditions placed on the license during the period of licensure, including the terms of a settlement agreement.

(2) The Board shall prepare a check sheet documenting the licensee’s compliance. This check sheet shall be available to the public for review.

(c) If an application for license renewal is made the subject of contested proceedings and the license expires before the Board’s decision on the renewal application, the Board may extend the expiration date during the pendency of the decision on the renewal application.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 327, ch. 4, § 14; Aug. 25, 1937, 50 Stat. 802, 803, ch. 766, §§ 1, 2; June 15, 1938, 52 Stat. 691, ch. 396, § 3; June 29, 1953, 67 Stat. 103, ch. 159, § 404(e), (f); Aug. 2, 1968, 82 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 90-450, title IV, § 404; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-146, § 4, 27 DCR 4753; Sept. 29, 1982, D.C. Law 4-157, §§ 8, 15, 29 DCR 3617; Mar. 8, 1984, D.C. Law 5-51, § 2(b)(4), (c), 30 DCR 5927; June 29, 1984, D.C. Law 5-97, § 2, 31 DCR 2556; Mar. 7, 1987, D.C. Law 6-217, § 9, 34 DCR 907; June 5, 1987, D.C. Law 7-7, § 2, 34 DCR 2640; Oct. 3, 1992, D.C. Law 9-174, § 2(b), (c), 39 DCR 5859; May 24, 1994, D.C. Law 10-122, § 2(f), 41 DCR 1658; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(q)(2), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-39, § 2, 46 DCR 6548; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959; May 1, 2013, D.C. Law 19-310, § 2(j), 60 DCR 3410.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-315.

1973 Ed., § 25-115.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 25-313, § 25-316, and § 25-433.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-310 substituted “settlement agreement” for “voluntary agreement” in (b)(1).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of (b)(1), see § 2(j) of the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-597, January 14, 2013, 60 DCR 1001).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(j) of the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-52, April 22, 2013, 60 DCR 6372, 20 DCSTAT 1388).


§ 25–316. Additional considerations for transfer of licensed establishment to new owner.

(a) In determining the appropriateness of the transfer of a licensed establishment to a new owner, the Board shall consider only the applicant’s qualifications as set forth in § 25-301.

(b) The Board shall not allow the transfer of the license of an establishment to a person against whom there is pending in the courts or before the Board a charge of keeping a disorderly house or of violating this title or the laws against gambling in the District.

(c) When the transferred license comes due for renewal, the Board shall evaluate the appropriateness of the application for renewal according to the standards set forth in §§ 25-313 and 25-315.

(d) If the transfer of ownership, as defined in § 25-405, includes a proposed substantial change in the operation of the establishment, the Board shall evaluate this transfer of ownership in accordance with § 25-404.


(Jan. 24, 1934, 48 Stat. 330, ch. 4, § 16; May 27, 1949, 63 Stat. 135, ch. 146, title V, § 503; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-157, § 2(d), 27 DCR 5117; May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 25-316.

1973 Ed., § 25-117.


§ 25–317. Transfer of licensed establishment to new location.

(a) The Board shall consider an application to transfer a license to a new location according to the same standards and procedures as an application for an initial license and shall not presume appropriateness if a protest to the application is filed as set forth in Chapter 6.

(b)(1) Notwithstanding the requirements set forth in § 25-446(d), an applicant filing an application to transfer to a new location may petition the Board in writing to not have provisions of an existing settlement agreement applied at the new location.

(2) The Board shall consider the petition; provided, that the Board shall deem the request to be a substantial change subject to the notice requirements set forth in §§ 25-421 and 25-423.

(3) The burden shall be on the applicant to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Board that the request will not adversely affect the locality, section, or portion of the District where the establishment is to be located under the appropriateness standards set forth in § 25-313 and that none of the provisions of the existing settlement agreement, or the agreement in its entirety, are applicable to the new location.

(4) The Board may amend, terminate, or maintain the existing settlement agreement at the new location.


(May 3, 2001, D.C. Law 13-298, § 101, 48 DCR 2959; May 2, 2015, D.C. Law 20-270, § 2(b)(2), 62 DCR 1866.)

Effect of Amendments

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-270 designated the existing text as (a); and added (b).