From Tom Hay
It has been a roller coaster of a month for Hank’s Oyster Bar owner and chef Jamie Leeds. On Nov. 3, Leeds was notified by the DC Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board that she had been released from a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) . The restaurant had operated under the V.A. since opening in 2005 at 1624 Q Street NW, just off 17th Street.
But, less than a week later Hank’s was in the cross hairs of ANC 2B. At issue are the evening hours of the restaurant’s sidewalk patio on Q Street, and Leeds’ request to expand her restaurant into the adjacent empty storefront.
One of the provisions of the now-defunct V.A. — which was between Hank’s, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and several residents — was the stipulation that the patio had to close at 11 pm, Sunday-Thursday, and at midnight, Friday-Saturday.
A group of local residents are already protesting the expansion, and a hearing on the matter was held Nov. 3. Several of the residents who are protesting the expansion were also parties to the V.A. and they argued that Hank’s should not be allowed to operate without a V.A. But, the ABC Board terminated the V.A.
ANC 2B Letter, Protest Against Expansion
At the Nov. 3 hearing on the expansion, Hank’s representative Andrew Kline made remarks regarding the terminated V.A. and noted that Hank’s Oyster Bar would no longer be bound by the rules regarding patio dining hours — leaving open the possibility of extended evening hours.
As a result of Kline’s remarks, five of the nine ANC 2B commissioners sent a letter on Monday, Nov. 8, to the ABC Board regarding Hank’s (read the ANC 2B letter). In the letter, the ANC said that these remarks represented a complete departure from previous discussions, both private and public, that the commission has had with Leeds — and goes against ANC 2B’s guidelines for outdoor cafes dating back to 1997.
Then, on Wednesday night, ANC 2B voted 7 to 1 (with one abstention) to officially protest the expansion of Hank’s Oyster Bar — a reversal of the ANC’s position in July. ANC 2B has asked the ABC Board to give it standing in the expansion case as the Board considers whether to grant Leeds’ expansion request. ANC 2B wants to preserve the present closing hours for the patio and one way to do this is by protesting the expansion request.
Why Did ANC 2B Vote to Protest?
Commissioner Victor Wexler (2B05) read remarks summarizing the ANC’s motivation to reverse course and protest the expansion. Hank’s is in his district. Wexler said:
“It is not my purpose tonight to re-create the multi-year effort of the ANC to nurture and expedite the expansion of Hank’s restaurant to the space adjacent to its present Q Street location, but to explain why on Nov 8, 2010 five commissioners sent to the ABC Board an urgent letter requesting that the November 3, 2010 action of the Board to determinate a 2005 Voluntary Agreement does not mean any change in the previously agreed to hours of the outside café of 11 pm and 12pm.
Wexler went on to say:
“Moreover, the view expressed by the applicant’s representative that the termination of that VA allows Hank’s at its discretion, to revert to original hours of 1 and 2 am as contained in the original pre voluntary agreement application shocks the ANC. This previously-undisclosed position has forced the ANC to ask the Board to allow the ANC to withdraw its support of the expansion and become instead a protestant to it.”
You can read Wexler’s entire statement to the ANC. The lone vote against the ANC 2B resolution on Wednesday came from Jack Jacobson (2B04), whose district is across the street to the north from Hank’s. Mike Silverstein (2B06) abstained; Silverstein is also a member of the ABC Board and abstains from alcohol license related votes that come before the commission.
Leeds Had Confirmed “No Changes”
Following the Nov. 3 ABC Board decision to release Hank’s from the V.A., Borderstan contacted Leeds regarding any possible changes in hours. She said on Nov. 4 that she had no plans to change any of her operations. Borderstan then contacted Leeds again on Tuesday after learning of the letter sent to ABRA by ANC 2B:
“I have not changed my hours and don’t plan to change the patio hours in the future. We are still, and always have, been considerate of our neighbors,” Leeds told Borderstan on Tuesday.
At that time, on Tuesday, Leeds was out of town on business and was as yet unaware of the letter that had been sent to the ABC Board by ANC 2B; Leeds and Kline were copied on the letter. Leeds was unable to attend the ANC 2B meeting on Wednesday night and Kline read a letter from Leeds saying she has no plans to change the patio hours.
V.A., ABC, ABRA
The V.A. is a facet of D.C. regulatory processes by which residents and community organizations may negotiate with a liquor license holder to set mandates that are not part of standard regulations. The restrictions placed on Hank’s Oyster Bar are a good example of what goes into a V.A.
The protests (another D.C. regulatory term) against the expansion of Hank’s Oyster Bar, and the termination of the V.A. are being handled as separate cases by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. The ABC Board has seven appointees who are nominated by the mayor and approved by the D.C. Council. It hears cases and issues rulings related to liquor-serving establishments.
Hearings before the ABC Board typically include the establishment, residents and community organizations. ABRA is the city agency that carries out the Board’s decisions and orders. To understand how the ABRA protest process works, view their PowerPoint slide show.
- ABC Board Approves Termination of Hank’s V.A.
- 6-Hour Hearing But No Decision for Hank’s Oyster Bar Hank’s Expansion Protest Hearing Set for Nov. 3
- City to Set Hearing Date on Hank’s Expansion Request
- Residents Fight Hank’s Expansion; DCCA Protests V.A. Request
- No ANC 2B Protest on Hank’s Oyster Bar Expansion
- Hank’s Oyster Bar Makes Progress on Expansion
- Q Street: What’s Up with Hank’s Oyster Bar?
- ANC Approves Limited Changes to 17th St. Moratorium
- ANC 2B Committee Report on 17th St. Liquor Licenses