Thinking longer about the silly zoning provision preventing more than 25 percent of the retail space on 14th Street, U Street, and a portion of 7th Street from being used by bars and restaurants, it’s worth observing what an inefficient method this is of limiting the number of bars and restaurants.
In effect, what this policy does is protect incumbent bar- and restaurant-owners from competition, letting them reap a financial windfall. An alternative way of achieving the same result would be to establish a maximum number of restaurant permits and then auction the permits to whoever wants to buy them. That way there’s no windfall, restaurants still will have a hard time staying in business unless they offer a good product at a reasonable price, and the city could use the money to pave the streets better or higher more cops or whatever. Alternatively, right now the city has a 10 percent retail sales tax. Instead of trying to micromanage development, we could just put a thumb on the scales by making restaurants pay more than 10 percent and having non-restaurant retailers pay less than 10 percent.
Personally, I don’t find the idea of too many restaurant options to be remotely problematic, but even if you do there’s no reason to embrace this particular method of discouraging restaurant-heavy commercial development.