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Court Tells ABC Board to Review Hank’s Oyster Bar V.A. Case

by Borderstan.com May 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,002 6 Comments

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT]borderstan.com and follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

Late last week the blog of LegalTimes reported that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an opinion related to the seven- year-long battle between a group of neighbors and  Hank’s Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW in Dupont Circle.

"Borderstan""Hank's Oyster Bar"

Hank's Oyster Bar is just off the 17th Street corridor . (Luis Gomez Photos)

The opinion states that the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board was wrong in their decision to allow termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) Hank’s had operated under based solely on whether doing so would have an adverse impact on the community.

“The neighbors have been overwhelmingly supportive of the expansion. I have not received one complaint since we have opened. I was shocked to hear that the court ruled to overturn the vacating of the voluntary agreement. I thought we had moved forward, but unfortunately it seems we are taking a step back in the growth of this neighborhood,” said Jamie Leeds, chef and owner of Hank’s.

The court reversed the November 2010 ABC Board decision and has ordered them to instead determine if Hank’s made a good faith attempts to negotiate an amended Voluntary Agreement (VA) with the group of neighbors who were parties to the original V.A., which dates back to 2005. Shortly after the ABC Board issued the opinion to terminate the V.A. they also agreed to allow Hank’s to expand operations into adjoining space.

V.A.s have become common citywide as a negotiating tool that sets restrictions beyond the standard regulations in exchange for a liquor license. Most frequently the V.A. limits hours of service of alcohol both inside and outside on sidewalk cafes.

Back in 2010 Leeds said that the major operational restrictions under the V.A. were that Hanks’s had to stop serving alcohol two hours before the restaurant’s closing time, and that dinner could not be served outside one hour before closing time.

Since the November 2010 decision the Board has several new members including a new chairperson, Ruthanne Miller. No word yet on when the ABC Board will review the case again.

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  • I cannot believe this fight with Hanks is still happening. There are so many other places on 17th Street that should come under scrutiny for the drunken clients they turn out onto the streets at 3 a.m. who then destroy the neighborhood or scream at each other for an hour and keep everyone awake. We need good places to eat on 17th, they need to let Hanks have their license without restriction once and for all. Then they should go pull a license from another business which doesn’t control any of their customers alcohol consumption and subsequent neigbhorhood destruction after the bar closes.

  • bugaboo

    What total BS. Where would I even start? With the neighbors? Or the Appeals Court? This sounds like some sort of vendetta. Or just a power trip. What is up with these people? I agree with what Velvet in Dupont says here in the comments. BTW, didn’t the VA have something in it about specifying what type of umbrellas Hank’s could use? GOOD LORD.

  • CLM

    This is just unbelievable, beleaguering one of the better establshments in the neighborhood. Hank’s and its customers have been a great and respectful addition to our community. I agree with Velvet, why doesn’t the ABC go after some of the establishments that regularly turn drunk patrons out onto our streets in the wee hours, who fight, shout, get in cars and drive away (drunk!) or relieve themselves in all sorts of unseemly places? This really is beginning to look like some benighted crusade against Hank’s. I wish there was a way to push back hard and make the ABC grant them a regular license, no restrictions, and enough already!

  • BoredOf17thStreet

    I would like to hear from the so-called “DuPont Circle Citizen’s Association” (they don’t represent any DuPont Citizens that I know of!). What is the reasoning here? That it is a “slippery slope?” if Hanks can expand, the next thing you know Club Chaos will be back, and pretty soon after that there will be strip clubs?

    I’m no republican, but these guys truly live up to “big government getting in the way of business” (quasi-government). They don’t represent progress. They use the beaurocratic process to put new businesses on the gallows pole. I have lived here 10 years. There is no innovation in the businesses on 17th street. They are stale because these folks make it too hard for a new business to come here. 17th Street is really sad nowadays. I used to enjoy going there.

    From my interactions with the DCCA, they want a quiet little neighborhood where nobody has any fun. Move to Fairfax if that’s what you want! Anyone buying a house on/near 17th Street should expect typical city life, which includes people eating, talking, drinking. Sorry but quaint little shops that close at 8pm can’t afford the rent here! Now, I agree not to let 17th Street turn into trashy Adams Morgan, but the gay community is even moving away from 17th Street. It’s lost its luster. When the current business owners there finally pass away of old age, the DCCA will finally have the quiet neighborhood they always wanted. It will be a ghost town. Buildings will crumble.

    Please, anyone in the DCCA or other protesters please explain yourself. Why all the red tape? Why not just let Hanks expand? Who is it hurting and how?? Make a stand publicly for your position.

  • JoeMama

    while i agree the outcome is lame, if you actually read the DC Court of Appeals decision it’s pretty clear they got it right based on the governing statute

    • BoredOf17thStreet

      The court may have gotten it right, I just dont understand why DCCA wouldn’t just drop it, and all their protests for that matter!


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