If you live in Germantown or are one of its many bar patrons, you have heard of the Alcohol and Beverage Control’s recent crackdown on NachBar's and other neighborhood bars' outdoor music and drinking. Until recently, the NachBar outdoor patio enjoyed a glowing reputation - a place you can find all your friends on a summer night.
Now Germantown residents are up in arms over their beloved pubs and have been calling into Councilman King’s office all morning. When I spoke to his office, they had already received 20 calls, all of them supporting the bars’ right to allow drinking on their patios. Rob Holtzmann, Councilman King’s legislative aide, said that King’s office is committed to supporting the culture of the area and to protect it from government red tape. In fact, Holtzmann says that the Zeppelin Café had a similar problem a little while ago and Councilman King’s office stepped in. The councilman's office is now also welcoming comments from the community.
It seems like everyone is on board to bring music and drinks back into the fresh air, but there must have been an issue for this crackdown to begin. The inspection department functions on a complaint basis. That means that in order for ABC to show up at your door, someone must have complained. ABC says that a rash of inspections have begun because when some bars were cited, they referenced other neighborhood establishments, which then also got cited, starting a chain reaction. And in the beginning, someone had to call in with a complaint in the first place.
In this situation, Germantown bars are being cited because they do not have the right to allow drinking and live music outside. ABC explains that zoning changed in 1971 and from then on bars had to be in commercially zoned areas. Germantown is mostly a residentially zoned neighborhood, but existing bars were grandfathered in and allowed to continue as long as the business didn’t go dormant for more than a year.
Germantown bars and pubs kept their doors open with grandfathered liquor licenses that are called nonconforming permits, but those permits did not cover outdoor consumption. A different permit is needed for that. ABC says that the next step for these bars is to prove to ABC that they have been hosting drinking on their patios continuously since 1971 without stopping for more than one year at a time. The same rules apply to host live music performances outside.
In the meantime, Germantown outrage is evident. However, neighbors are encouraging each other and friends to call Councilman King's office with their thoughts regardless of the stance on the issue. Germantown bar NachBar also commented on the Germantown-Schnitzelburg Facebook page asking everyone to voice an opinion no matter what it may be.