From Tom Hay
The long lines for a table at Hank’s Oyster Bar may soon be a thing of the past. The popular restaurant at 1624 Q Street, just off the 17th Street corridor, has taken a few steps forward in obtaining approval to expand into adjacent space.
Chef and owner Jamie Leeds opened Hank’s in 2005 after a contentious negotiation process with several neighbors and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) over conditions of their Voluntary Agreement (VA).
Without a VA in place a business could risk losing a liquor license entirely if any opposing party takes the protest all the way to a DC Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) hearing. Hank’s current VA controls things like hours of operation, seating capacity and also prohibited expansion. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B-Dupont was not a party to the original VA.
With its liquor license up for renewal Hank’s has petitioned ABRA to vacate the VA that has been in place since 2005. Establishments are eligible to vacate a VA when their license is up for renewal and they have operated under the VA for four years. Hank’s has met both conditions.
Some recent actions by the Dupont Circle ANC have also eased some restrictions on expansion. First, ANC 2B voted to revise the 17th Street liquor moratorium to allow Hanks’s to expand, and then supported rezoning of the building adjacent to Hank’s from residential to commercial. ABRA notified ANC 2B of the petition to vacate the current VA and allowed them to comment or oppose.
An ANC board member’s motion to oppose the petition was not supported by a majority of the board. The four commissioners who favored Hank’s expansion were Mike Feldstein, Will Stephens, Victor Wexler and Jack Jacobson. The three commissioners against expansion were Bob Meehan, Ramon Estra and Phil Carney. Mike Silverstein did not vote as he is now the ABRA Board, and Bhavna Patel abstained.
Interestingly, the intersection of 17th and Q NW is where boundaries of four of ANC 2B’s nine single member districts meet. Wexler represents District 05, where Hank’s is located. Across the street (north side of Q) is District 04, which is represented by Jacobson. District 03 is represented by by Meehan and 07 by Carney. The third commissioner opposed to Hank’s expansion, Estrada, represents 09, which is in the far northeastern part of ANC 2B; he has been a vocal opponent of additional restaurants on the 14th and U corridor.
The DCCA and the individuals who were parties to the original VA may still oppose the petition to vacate. Hearings are scheduled for later this summer.
Leeds has long had ties to the Dupont-Logan area. She got her start here in 2002 at 15 Ria, located at 1515 Rhode Island Avenue NW in the Doubletree Hotel. Leeds and her restaurants were recently profiled in Metro Weekly.