While people complain (often accurately) about the effectiveness of D.C. Government, one thing the city does quite well is collect data. The city publishes geographic and other forms of data on their website, free for anyone to use, with the idea that citizens, researchers, local organizations and more can use the information however they choose — part of the broader open data movement. We decided to map out some of that data: all 1,786 liquor licenses from the city's Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration, to see how they were distributed throughout town. The data is from October 2013 per a conversation with DCGIS and we used tools made by local tech company Mapbox to create the map. You can see the full map here.
— Andrew Wiseman
One of the first thing that sticks out is a lack of alcohol-serving restaurants and bars (red and blue dots) east of the river. There are only four restaurant licenses, one of which is Ray's the Steaks, which has closed, and another is a takeout Chinese restaurant, Wah Sing. There's also one nightclub on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, but if you want a drink with dinner and you live east of river, be prepared to travel. Of course, this is a well-known and much deplored situation for folks living there, and those other dots are bright spots: Big Chair Coffee & Grill and Uniontown Bar and Grill (which is back after closing in 2012.) Let's hope more options come to that very large part of town.
The other thing that's interesting to explore on the map are the clusters – places like Barracks Row and the area around Eastern Market stand out, as do H Street NE, Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park. Downtown is a multicolored blur, like a bag of M&Ms spilled out, while other areas (like much of Northeast DC) have a lot of grays for liquor stores and convenience stores but fewer restaurants and bars. The area near Gallaudet and farther up New York Avenue has a lot of clubs and wholesalers, maybe forming a symbiotic partnership.
Newer bar areas like Shaw and Columbia Heights are represented too, though sometimes by the name of the company rather than the bar, like Meridian Pint being represented as "Joint Chiefs," which is admittedly also a pretty cool name. It's also interesting to see clusters where you may not have expected them — 14th Street near Spring Road has a number of establishments which all cater to Latin Americans.
The other interesting tidbit is that far south near Alexandria there's a boat — there are actually a few there, but the data only shows one at a time. That's because D.C.'s boundary officially goes to the Virginia shore, meaning anything in the Potomac River is actually part of D.C. The boats are the dinner and party cruise boats you see trawling the river for special events.
That's what we've noticed from this data — but in the spirit of open data, what have you noticed? We also hear that DCGIS is updating the data, so in a few weeks it may be possible to see what's changed since last October. (Disclosure: The author worked for DCGIS from 2005-2008).