Castello Restaurant on Hamilton Street gets its alcohol license, with restrictions

Amadouh Bah and Wafa Harrag, owners of the upcoming Castello Restaurant and Lounge. 

Amadouh Bah and Wafa Harrag, owners of the upcoming Castello Restaurant and Lounge. 

After its January 6th protest hearing at the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, Castello Restaurant and Lounge finally gets a decision.

Owners Amadouh Bah and his wife Wafa Harrag have been trying to open a family-style restaurant at 931 Hamilton Street NW for the past year. In their alcohol license application, the owners had asked for the full operating hours offered by law for a Tavern alcohol license: serve until 3am. Neighbors supported the idea of a family-style restaurant, but they were concerned about a loud, late-night restaurant (or a night club) literally feet away from their homes.

From the perspective of the residents, a family restaurant didn’t need to be open until 3am, and they wanted the assurance that Bah and Harrag wouldn’t switch the business from a restaurant to a nightclub after opening, as they did with their 14th Street club, Red Lounge and Bar (it originally opened as the International Grill). 

Several attempted meetings and mediations between residents and owners meant to resolve these questions and concerns either failed to happen, or failed to achieve anything useful. So the owners, residents and ANC 4D Commissioner David Sheon went before the ABC Board at a license protest hearing to offer testimony and determine the parameters of Castello’s alcohol license. The residents asked for a limit of midnight or 1am on the hours.

The ABC Board’s final decision came out on Wednesday, February 24th and offers a balance between the desires of the owners and the requests of the nearby residents. The restaurant will get its alcohol license for both indoor and outdoor seating areas — but the hours will be limited to 11pm outside and 12 midnight inside, 7 days a week.

During the hearing, Mr. Bah stated that he thought midnight was an acceptable limit — he just wanted the flexibility of the later hours for the future in case he needed to sell or change the restaurant. In the end, he got the hours he told the Board he thought would work, and the residents got the limitations they requested. (Read a PDF of the the ABC Board's decision, and see the related article for background.)

Architectural rendering of proposed Castello Restaurant and Lounge (Georgia Ave on the left). Photo courtesy Castello.

"Overall I think this is a victory for the community," said Commissioner Sheon. "We need family-style restaurants and this is a reasonable closing time."

Now it’s up to both the owners and the residents to continue to work together to make Castello Restaurant and Lounge a successful place for the neighborhood. 

Note: I contacted Mr. Bah and his representative, Dee Hunter, asking for comment on the ABC Board decision and if they had a timeline to open Castello, but did not receive a reply.