DC Council Members Are Now Debating Alcohol-Infused Baked Goods

Are boozy cupcakes being regulated to death? One Council member thinks they might be.
A hot issue for DC legislators. Photograph via Shutterstock.

DC Council member Tommy Wells has seven months left to effect his good-government ethos before he leaves office. His latest pet cause, to go along with his record of promoting multi-modal transportation, early-childhood education, and honest campaign finance? Alcohol-infused baked goods.

Wells introduced legislation on Wednesday to protect manufacturers of boozy edibles from excessive regulation, which his office says are at a competitive disadvantage against providers of other 21-and-over menu items, like breweries and distilleries. He was inspired by Crunkcakes, a bakery off H Street, Northeast, that supplies booze-soaked cupcakes to bars around DC, and especially in Wells’s home turf of Ward 6. (Its mission statement: “To give you cavities and liver damage at the same time.”) Authorities told Crunkcakes that because of neighborhood zoning, baking desserts made with alcohol is tantamount to manufacturing alcohol, a spokesman for Wells says.

That’s a very harsh reading of city regulations, though. Crunkcakes has been in operation since 2011, shipping items like the “Fat Elvis”—a banana-flavored cupcake infused with rum and topped with a buttercream frosting made with peanut butter and Frangelico. Although it’s illegal to walk down the street carrying an open can of beer, city regulatory agencies have no problem with boozy treats like alcohol-infused chocolates.

“We are striving to make the District more open and progressive by removing unnecessary hurdles for small businesses to operate,” Wells writes in the legislation. Wells seeks to create a new class of manufacturer’s license concerning bakers who churn out alcohol-based solid foods.

The bill’s necessity could be dubious, but it was not without controversy. Council member Vincent Orange told his colleagues he had never heard of Crunkcakes before, calling it a “total game changer,” according to the Washington Post.

Orange’s reaction was strong enough that Wells’s bill won’t come up for a vote until next month, when it is introduced as an amendment to a larger budget bill. Still, a brewing legislative showdown over boozy sweets is enough to make anyone want to reach for the nearest Crunkcake.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.