On the subject of Adams-Morgan’s various problems, I think Lydia DePillis is correct to highlight up front the perennial rallying cry that other neighborhoods want regulations in place to ensure that they don’t become “another Adams-Morgan.” I would argue that this widespread fear of Adams-Morgan-ification is itself at the root of Adams-Morgan’s problems.
There’s considerable demand for bars and nightlife in Washington, DC. But precisely because each neighborhood fears becoming “another Adams-Morgan,” essentially every neighborhood uses licensing restrictions to ensure that the market doesn’t meet the demand. Sometimes that’s refusal of liquor licenses. But oftentimes it’s “voluntary” agreements to restrict hours, or pressure for firms to incorporate a bigger food service element in their business plan or whatever. This all tends to ensure that nightlife goers are funneled very heavily to the existing hub in Adams-Morgan, which gives it its unique character. No one neighborhood wants to welcome new nightlife establishments with open arms out of understandable fear that all that pent up demand will suddenly rush in. But if everyone took the leap together, most neighborhoods would get one or two new spots and there’d be much less pressure on the system.