WOW’s liquor license still three months away

Students won’t be able to purchase alcohol at the WOW Wingery and Cafe until nearly May, a GW official said.

WOW, which opened the first week of spring semester after four months of delays, was expected to serve beer and wine upon opening Jan. 17. It will take three more months to obtain the correct liquor license for the venue on the fifth floor of the Marvin Center, said Nancy Haaga, director of Campus Support Services.

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration said GW has not yet submitted the application, as of last week.

Part of the reason for the delay in filing the liquor license amendment, Haaga said, is that the University had to wait for several D.C. inspections to take place. She said the inspectors could only come once the facility was completely constructed and ready for opening. WOW was originally slated to open early last semester.

Although the Marvin Center already has a liquor license, it only allows the service of alcohol in a theater, private club, boat or train. Jeff Coudriet, ABRA’s director of operations, said amending the Marvin Center’s type of license is extremely unusual and has only occurred in a few cases – the most recent of which is the 9:30 Club’s successful application.

“It doesn’t happen a whole lot,” Coudriet said, adding that the 9:30 Club, a concert venue in the U Street district of D.C., waited two months after submitting its application before receiving approval.

Senior Jessalyn Pinneo said she was particularly disappointed that WOW was not serving alcohol. “We thought that it would be fun to have a place on campus to just go and have a drink,” Pinneo said.

Additional deviations have occurred from the restaurant’s original plans, which were formulated last summer.

The University initially publicized that WOW would have a flat-screen television at every table and booth, but Haaga said money was reallocated to construction in the kitchen to provide a menu commensurate with a full restaurant. There are 21 flat-screen televisions in the Hippodrome area that WOW occupies, Haaga added.

The Southwestern-style food venue is not yet a full-service restaurant – customers wait in line and order from cashiers at a counter. Haaga said she hopes WOW will have table service by the end of February.

Orders have typically taken up to 30 minutes from the point when a patron enters the line at the counter to when the food is served. WOW is not a fast-food restaurant, Haaga said, and students should expect the made-to-order food to take some time.

“Once the order is placed, customers should expect to wait 15 minutes to receive their food, as is the standard wait for most full-service restaurants, she said. “The WOW staff is working hard to get fully up to speed in all aspects of the new WOW and speed of service is expected to improve as the staff become more familiar with the operation and master the ‘learning curve.'”

Despite changes and delays, WOW’s menu and setting has attracted many students. Haaga said there were about 24,000 individual pieces of chicken purchased within the first week of the food venue’s opening.

Freshman Melissa O’Brien said she has enjoyed the restaurant despite setbacks and changes. She and her friends have visited the restaurant several times since its opening and even have menu favorites.

“The atmosphere is cool because there’s not another place where you can come and eat with a large group of people and just watch TV,” O’Brien said.

Another anticipated alcohol-serving restaurant on campus has also faced difficulties opening as planned.

TONIC, a restaurant moving into the space formerly occupied by Quigley’s pharmacy on the corner of 20th and G streets, began construction in the spring of 2006 but ran into permit delays shortly after construction began. Now delays in obtaining a liquor license have surfaced but co-founder and GW alumnus Jeremy Pollok said the bar and restaurant will open regardless.

“If we have (the license) when we open, you know it’s great. If we don’t it’s a process,” Pollok said.

The restaurant and bar opening in Foggy Bottom is a spin-off of Pollok’s original bistro in Mount Pleasant, which is just east of the National Zoo. The American-style restaurant will serve a wide range of dishes that are twists on traditional comfort foods, Pollok said. Other features include a third-floor gathering area with a stage.

Pollok said the building is awaiting University construction on the outside, which depends on weather. He said the store’s manager and chef have already been hired and he expects to open in late March or early April.

TONIC’s liquor license application has been delayed indefinitely after concerns that the bar would be in a residential neighborhood and close to a D.C. public school. A D.C. statute requires there be 400 feet of space between schools and bars, and the School Without Walls is within that distance.

“If they were applying on a commercial block, there would be no issue,” Coudriet said of ABRA’s delay in deciding on the license. He added that there has not been a previous situation in the city that is a precedent for TONIC’s license request, which is why there has been a lot of discussion on the legal ramifications.

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