DC Mayor Vincent Gray had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle on Thursday night. The mayor’s visit to the popular restaurant at 1624 Q Street NW happened as the restaurant is embroiled in another chapter of a seven-year-long regulatory battle with a small group of neighborhood residents. Hank’s Chef and owner Jamie Leeds greeted the mayor who acknowledged Leeds’ latest challenge.
Leeds told Borderstan that she said to Gray, “I just want my patio back.” According to Leeds, the mayor shared her frustration that a small group of people could dictate how a business may operate, even in the face of so much popular support. Shortly after Leeds was forced to downsize her patio, an online petition was circulated in support of Leeds and quickly attained more than 1,800 signatures.
Hank’s Oyster Bar most recent roadblock occurred just before the start of the annual gay pride weekend — one of the busiest times for the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. Leeds was forced to close half of her cafe’s outdoor seating after a DC Court of Appeals decision ruled that the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board) had erred in its 2010 decision that allowed her to terminate the voluntary agreement (V.A.) she had signed before opening in 2005.
Among other things, the V.A. controlled the hours service and size of the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. The case was remanded to the ABC Board and a hearing took place last month. A ruling is expected in a few weeks.
While the drama of Hank’s unfolded over the past few weeks, DC Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) has introduced legislation that would overhaul many of DC’s alcohol licensing laws. Among the 43 amendments and additions proposed in the legislation is a change in how close neighbors must live to a business before they may have standing to protest a liquor license application. The legislation was introduced last month and a hearing is scheduled for July 12 at 11 am in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.