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Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Administration

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File a Protest (Alcohol)

What can be protested?

Certain applications for alcoholic beverage licenses can be protested, including applications for a: 

  • New license
  • License renewal
  • Substantial change to an establishment's operations
  • Transfer of a license to a new location

In addition to these applications, a catered site could also be protested 

Who can file a protest?

The following can file a protest:

  • An abutting property owner
  • A group of five or more District residents (or three or more if the establishment is located in a moratorium zone)
  • An incorporated community association that has open membership to all residents in the area represented by the association and meets all of the following requirements:
    • The association provides notice of the meeting where the protest will be discussed to the applicant at least seven days prior to the meeting
    • The association's decision regarding the applicant’s license must be approved in accordance with the association’s rules
  • Any ANC located within 600 feet of the establishment
  • The Mayor, if property owned by the District is located within 600 feet of the establishment
  • A designated custodian, if a property owned by the United States is located within 600 feet of the establishment
  • The Metropolitan Police Department

How do I file a protest?

Follow these steps to file a protest petition:

  • File a protest letter prior to the petition deadline stated on the Notice of Public Hearing (placard notice).
  • Provide information in the letter about the establishment you are protesting, including the trade name and address.
  • Include at least one appropriateness standard (outlined in § 25-313):
    • The effect of the establishment on real property values;
    • The effect of the establishment on peace, order, and quiet, including the noise and litter provisions set forth in §§ 25-725 and 25-726;
    • The effect of the establishment upon residential parking needs and vehicular and pedestrian safety; and
    • In the case of a license renewal, the provisions of this subsection and § 25-315 (page 46).
  • Designate a representative in the letter who will represent the group in all hearings once the group is granted standing.
  • Include printed names, addresses, signatures and emails (if available) for all protestants.

A catered site could be protested by filing a letter with ABCA within 30 days of the last event at a catered site. The protest letter must include at least one of the appropriateness standards listed above and provide information about the event space.

Protest petitions may be submitted by email, mail or in person to ABCA's office:

  • Email
  • 2000 14th Street, NW, 4th Floor, Suite 400 South, Washington, DC 20009

Failure to follow any of the petition procedures may result in the dismissal of the protest.


ABCA provides mediation services to all parties of a protest.


There may be a variety of hearings associated with the protest process, including:

  • Roll Call Hearings - Proceeding where the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board's (Board) agent introduces the parties (protestant(s) and applicant) and states the grounds for the protest.
  • Status Hearing -  Proceeding held by the Board where the parties inform the Board of their progress in reaching a settlement agreement.
  • Protest Hearing - Adjudicatory proceeding where the Board receives evidence and testimony on the appropriateness of the licensing action.

Hearing Requirements

  • If the protest includes a group of residents, present at least five signatories, or three if the establishment is in a moratorium zone, between the roll call hearing and the status hearing.
    • The Board only requires the initial attendance of five signatories, three in a moratorium zone, regardless of the size of the protest group.
    • If fewer than five signatories attend the roll call hearing, the group will be granted conditional standing, which would require the remaining members to appear at the status hearing.
  • Attend all hearings and mediations on time. If you are unable to attend a scheduled hearing, remember to contact ABCA to request a continuance. 
  • File a Protest Information and Exhibit Form (PIF) at least seven (7) calendar days prior to a protest hearing. Please ensure that your list of witnesses contains their email addresses.
    • The PIF is not protest letter and shall not be submitted in lieu of a protest letter. It is completed after the protest letter is filed and the parties are granted standing.
  • Present your case within one and a half hours at the protest hearing.
    • Only discuss the appropriateness standards that remain unresolved after mediation.
    • Minimize repetitive or irrelevant testimony from witnesses.
    • Budget your time. Any cross-examination of an applicant’s witnesses is counted against your allotted hour and a half.


Any paperwork related to the protest, such as a motion, PIF, etc., needs to be filed with ABCA's General Counsel. Filings also need to be provided to all parties of the protest. 

  • Serve filings (motions, PIFs, etc.) to all parties, including ABCA’s General Counsel Division.
  • Ensure all filings are signed and include original signatures.
  • File responses to party motions within seven calendar days.

Filings may be submitted by email, mail or in person to ABCA's office:

  • Email
  • 2000 14th Street, NW, 4th Floor, Suite 400 South, Washington, DC 20009
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