Proposed sportsbook drops fight to open on Capitol Hill

An entrepreneur who conceived of a bar and sportsbook just blocks from the Capitol Building plans to look for a new location.

With a city liquor board hearing looming, Virginia Beach, Va.-based venture capitalist Shane August has confirmed to WTOP that he intends to drop his application after pressure from the neighborhood.

It was his third attempt to find a location for his proposed business, called Handle 19, in the District. August initially planned to open in Adams Morgan and then switched to a vacant bar on Pennsylvania Ave. near 3rd Street SE.

August had been locked in a battle with Advisory Neighborhood Commission members since late 2020.

August said he was initially welcomed by neighborhood leaders, who agreed to the standard neighborhood covenant regarding hours of operation and other courtesies that bars and restaurants in that area follow.

However, when some of the residents started expressing concerns about having sports betting so close to their homes and schools, the ANC switched course and eventually hired a lawyer to help challenge the venue’s liquor license, a move that not everyone involved with the ANC agreed with.

August faced another setback in late February when his application for a gaming license had to be withdrawn before it was formally rejected by the city. August has said he plans to resubmit an application later this year.

So far August is part of only two groups that have applied for one of DC’s Class B sports betting licenses.

The city’s other Class B sports betting license applicant, Grand Central in Adams Morgan, submitted its application in November, and according to the DC Lottery, that application remains under review.

Class B licenses are for bars and restaurants around the city that hope to use sports betting to attract customers.

The city’s Class A licenses are set aside for gaming companies affiliated with professional sports teams.

William Hill is operating at Capital One Arena with a Class A license, and Bet MGM has applied with the city for a Class A license that would be affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

Plans are in the works for a sportsbook across the street from Nationals Park, as well as a Bet MGM Lounge near the main center field gate.

In a statement to WTOP, August Holdings said:

“Handle 19 was looking forward to being a responsible and engaged part of the Capitol Hill community and to revitalizing a space that has sat vacant on Pennsylvania Avenue for several years. The project would have created at least 25 hospitality jobs in the midst of a pandemic that has hit that industry, and its workers, the hardest. It is particularly disappointing that the local neighbors and ANC 6B fought so hard to undermine a small and minority-owned business, and spent thousands of tax payer dollars to achieve such a goal; money that could have gone to much more productive causes, including grants for small businesses on Capitol Hill.”

Jennifer Samolyk is the ANC Commissioner who helped lead the fight against Handle 19. She said: “Shane was professional and courteous throughout the process,” and added  “I wish him well finding an alternative location.”

Another commissioner, however, was disappointed the neighborhood could not reach a solution for August’s concept to open.

“Handle 19 should have been a part of the long and storied history of restaurants and entertainment on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast,” Corey Holman said.

Holman added that he was ready to move “past adversarial relationships with business owners looking to operate in our community.”

August said his company is working to find a new location.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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