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Poll Closes Sunday: Should Just 5 People Be Allowed to Protest a Liquor License?

by Borderstan.com June 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm 1,887 19 Comments

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com

News of licensing agreements about local businesses and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has been rocking area websites and newsfeeds for more than a week. Hank’s Oyster Bar, a local restaurant just off the 17th Street corridor, was forced to shut down half of its outdoor patio on June 8 due to a pending review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents; two of the original six protestants filed the appeal. The hearing was held last Wednesday, but nothing has resulted (as of yet) from the battle between a handful of local residents and the local business.

Reader Poll: What’s your opinion? Should a minimum of five residents or property owners be allowed to file a protest against liquor license application that then goes before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board — or should that number be increased? Take our reader poll. We will share the results early next week.

"U Street NW"

How many residents should DC law require to protest a liquor license application? (Luis Gomez Photos)

That’s the law in DC: At present, a minimum of five residents or property owners (three if it is a liquor license moratorium zone) living up to 600 feet away from a restaurant or bar with a liquor license can file for a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with an establishment — for reference, a football field is 360 feet long.

Residents — as well as neighborhood associations and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions — can also protest a pending liquor license application, and then the establishment must reach an agreement with the group or groups. (Hank’s is located in the Dupont East Moratorium Zone.)

V.A.’s are often used to limit hours of operation or specify how  outdoor dining areas are used. There may also be other requirements that the bar or restaurant must agree to follow to obtain the liquor license. (See details below.)

Since the closure of half its patio at 1624 Q Street NW, Hank’s has procured the support of local businesses and organizations, including the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA). Furthermore, an online petition in favor of Hank’s was posted on June 18 and has already received about more than 1,200 signatures.

The petition, started by Mary Tucker, calls on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director, Fred Moosally; Ward 2 Council Member, Jack Evans; Councilmember and ABC Committee Chair, Jim Graham; and DC Mayor Vincent Gray to end the ability for a small number of residents to hold up liquor licensing.

DC Code Spells Out Protest Rules

If you want to dive into the weeds, Title 23, Chapter 16 of the DC Code stipulates the rules for filing a protest against a liquor license. The specifics on who can protest are in Title 25, Chapter 6:

§ 25-601. Standing to file protest against a license

The following persons may protest the issuance or renewal of a license, the approval of a substantial change in the nature of operation as determined by the Board under § 25-404, a new owner license renewal, or the transfer of a license to a new location:

(1) An abutting property owner;

(2) A group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest; provided, that in a moratorium zone established under § 25-351 (or in existence as of May 3, 2001), a group of no fewer than 3 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest;

(3) A citizens association incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia located within the affected area; provided, that the following conditions are met:

(A) Membership in the citizens association is open to all residents of the area represented by the association; and

(B) A resolution concerning the license application has been duly approved in accordance with the association’s articles of incorporation or bylaws at a duly called meeting, with notice of the meeting being given at least 10 days before the date of the meeting.

(4) An affected ANC;

(5) In the case of property owned by the District within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the Mayor;

(6) In the case of property owned by the United States within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the designated custodian of the property; or

(7) The Metropolitan Police Department District Commander, or his or her designee, in whose Police District the establishment resides.

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  • John

    You bet. If I were an abutting property owner or any other that’s property value has decresaed due to the fact that there is a noisy bar/restaurant near by. Ms. Leeds took over a property that was NOT commercial – it was residential – thus lowering near-by property values for her own personal gain.

    • bugaboo

      LOL! OMG! Where would I even start? She doesn’t even own the buildings. It was zoned commercial. Lowered the property values? Can you prove that? Property values in the area are skyrocketing due to all the new businesses. And heaven forbid that a business make money! The horrors!

      • John

        Yes I can. The owner of Trios owns the buidings and I talk to him regularly. Commercial zoning went up to the old Trios Pizza – with an apartment next door (residential). She took an apartment – better known as residential – and expanded her commercial business. Check the city records and Jack Evans’ office. You bet if I owned the property next door she would have a fight on her hands. Ms. Leeds – why don’t you give your neighbor a cut of your increased revenue?

        • HanksNotaThreat

          YOU check the records. The space next to Hank’s was zoned commercial before Hank’s expanded into the space. Hank’s did not expand into a residentially-zoned space, they expanded into a commercially-zoned space. The process of zoning the space commercial was like any other, public, opportunities for any positions to be heard at length, deliberation, agency decision, and in fact commercial zoning designation received support from the Dupont ANC. Commercial space, not residential. So YOU check the records. Because it shows how this space was properly and correctly zoned commercial. And what an imagination you have: business operators should have a place on their monthly ledger where they just cut a check to abutting property owners? Sounds like yet another Dupont resident who has no idea how business operates, and enjoys reopening and rehashing settled and done zoning and other regulatory decisions, which were thoroughly public and completely hashed out, just because you have a grudge about the result.

    • angry

      The landlord changed the zoning to commercial before Hank’s wanted it.

      Ms. Leeds did meet with the neighboring property owner and resolved issues with them without the need for legal intervention. The guys protesting this mostly live on the 1700 block of Q Street (not 1600 block where Hank’s is). One of them literally said in the ABC hearing “I didn’t know about that building next to Hank’s because I never walk on that side of 17th Street!” WHAT SHOULD HE CARE THEN?! Drop the lawsuit guys. We get it, you’re BITTER and OLD.

  • angry

    Short answer: NO!
    Long answer: HELL NO!

    The ring leader, David Malloff, should have to answer to all of us. I would love for people to confront him in public. Shame! He’s trying to put Hank’s out of business just because of his ego and hate of sidewalk cafe seats serving alcohol.

    Move out of the city if you don’t like sidewalk seating!

  • DupontRes

    Well for starters, part of Hank’s space was the old Trio’s Pizza, so I’m pretty sure at least part was commercial forever. Where is the proof that the adjacent property values have diminished? You cannot tell me having a vacant rowhouse instead of a thriving, upscale restaurant there would have improved property values next door. Give me a break.

    Also, they had the opportunity to fight the re-zoning when that occurred. Now that it has occurred, the ship has sailed. Without some actual concrete showing that serving alcohol or food on the patio has a negative impact on the use of their own property, they have no rights here. Period. If they don’t like it, I suggest they buy out the real estate and do what they want with it.

    • John

      The original Hanks was in Trios Pizza – they expanded into the apartment next door. That apartment was zoned residential – at one time it was illegally being used commercially as a theater (long time ago).

      • DupontRes

        I believe that is what I said. “part”

      • HanksNotaThreat

        The space next to Hank’s was zoned commercial before Hank’s expanded into the space. Hank’s did not expand into a residentially-zoned space, they expanded into a commercially-zoned space. The process of zoning the space commercial was like any other, public, opportunities for any positions to be heard at length, and in fact received support from the Dupont ANC. Commercial space, not residential.

    • citizen2u

      Change the law. They have every right to do what they do. But getting the law changed would require some actual effort by people who are too lazy to invest any real effort to show up at hearings and really get involved in the neighborhood.

  • CAC

    Good GRIEF – move to Virginia if you don’t want to live in the city.

  • Logan Res

    Part of the problem is that this group of six are the only ones who show up at any of the ANC or other meetings regarding our communities. We all need to start attending these meetings to show our support for the businesses, developers, and neighborhood.

  • TomDC

    First one person could protest a liquor application. Then it was increased to at least 5 to protest. Now the newbie transients want to stop all protests.

    Maybe we should just dispense liquor licenses from farecard machines and save the money we spend on the regulatory-captured ABRA.

    • Restore Thomas Kinkade’s 17th St!

      Yes because it’s clearly one or the other (we couldn’t say raise the number of req’d protest signatures to say 15 or 20 to demonstrate genuine neighborhood concern). Boooooo scary scare tactics. Boo! (And nice “newbie” toss-off there, as if there aren’t a lot of long-time residents who’ve had it with these Hank’s protestors too. How much of a newbie twink is Victor Wexlar then? The ANC commish for Hank’s area who said these protestors were “laughably” throwing up obstacles and deserved a “slap in the face”?).

      • citizen2u

        So, raise it to 15. Five come forward because that’s the requirement. Raise it to 15 and 15 will step forward. Mr. Wexlar clearly is a paragon of civil speech. I’m glad not everyone emulates him.

  • Byoung

    Like with environmental regulation, there should be a polluter pays principle here. The polluter pays principle is a democratic solution that transparently really reflects on who the polluter is. Bssically, the polluter is the entity that the majority thinks pollutes and should pay. In this case, that would be the five or six protester’s of Hank’s license. You protest you pay for the loss of revenue to the city in opposition to your neighbors. Nice conservative economic principle.

    • citizen2u

      And Hank’s as the polluter of its neighbors pays them. The majority of the world thinks the US pollutes too much. Therefore I trust that you are doing your share to follow that democratic will.

  • citizen2u

    I like Hank’s just fine and it’s a huge improvement over Trios, but claiming citizens don’t and shouldn’t have the right to protest anything they want and, in this case, exercise an explicit recourse, shows a complete lack of civic understanding. It doesn’t matter what the zoning is, if there is a statutory option to protest citizens are entitled to do that. Look at it as pure capitalism – everything is a market, including citizen action. You don’t like it you can whine here and throw around childish insults or you can deal with it in the civic fora provided.


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