At their first monthly meeting since the tragic shooting at the Heritage India restaurant last month, the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood (ANC) Commission 2B opened debate about safety and security at area bars and restaurants. ANCs are often the first stop for any new establishment that is seeking an Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA) license.
Frequently neighbors and ANCs protest license applications to ensure leverage in controlling things such as an establishment’s hours of service, type of entertainment and security measures.In the incident at Heritage, the club owners had given permission for a promoter to host an event at the restaurant after they had finished dinner service for the evening.
At some point a fight broke out that continued out onto the 1300 block of Connecticut Avenue NW just south of Dupont Circle. Johnte Coleman of Maryland was hit when gunfire erupted, he later died from his wound, five others were injured.
A few days after the shooting Police Chief Cathy Lanier ordered the restaurant to close for 96 hours. Shortly after that, ABRA pulled the restaurant’s liquor license pending a review. This week the restaurant’s license was reinstated with restrictions – they will only be able to sell alcohol with food, close at midnight and will need to come up with an acceptable security plan. At the ABRA hearing it was disclosed that the restaurant did not follow their established security procedures.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was a guest speaker at the December 14 meeting and expressed shock and outrage at the violence that occurred at Heritage India. He cited the challenges caused by restaurants that morph into nightclubs late at night and pointed out ongoing safety and noise issues at other establishments in the ward, including Mood Lounge on 9th Street NW in the Shaw neighborhood.
Last week Evans introduced legislation called The Reimbursable Detail Expansion & Promoter Regulation Act of 2011 to address ABRA’s current lack of regulation of promoters. The legislation also seeks to expand the Metropolitan Police Department’s reimbursable detail program by requiring certain establishments to pay for adequate security unless they are granted an exemption by ABRA.
Events like the one organized by the promoter at Heritage would require additional security. In his remarks before the ANC, he pointed out that the legislation needs refinement since not every promoted event requires security. He also mentioned removing the word “reimbursable” from the legislation.
After Evans’ remarks, ANC Commissioner Mike Silverstein of Single Member District (SMD) 2B06, who is also a member of the ABRA’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), added that the ABC Board forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General for a show cause hearing. He also emphasized ABRA’s desire to get a handle on bad promoters and cited the challenges of pop-up events promoted through social media on the Internet.
Commissioner Phil Carney (SMD 2B07), whose district includes Heritage India, praised the competent and prompt response by the Metropolitan Police Department in the aftermath of the violence. He added that promoted events have been a problem for years and mentioned that neighboring Prince Georges County, Maryland, requires licensing of promoters.
During the debate commissioners called out other Dupont Circle restaurants who have late-night promoter events and continue to be a source of frustration for neighbors — the other establishments mentioned include Bistro Bistro at 1727 Connecticut Avenue NW and Marrakesh P Street / Pasha Lounge at 2147 P Street, NW.
Commissioner Jack Jacobson (SMD 2B04) pointed out that the ANC 2B knew of problems at ABC licensed establishments but has never opposed a renewal. “Buck shold stop here!” he tweeted during the meeting. We should hear more on the Heritage India incident from Evans and the ANC next month, as the bill moves to a hearing and the ANC continues the discussion at their next meeting.