Fainting Goat Becomes Collateral Damage in ANC 1B Liquor Wars

by Borderstan.com March 8, 2013 at 8:00 am 16 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

The District Pub Group, LLC, aspiring proprietors of the Fainting Goat Tavern at 1330 U Street NW, got caught in the cross fire at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B meeting last night, March 7. Most of the U Street corridor is in 1B. The tavern site is the former Urban Essentials space, which is now on 14th Street NW.

"ANC 1B"

Seated at table: ANC 1B commissioners at the March 7 meeting at the Reeves Center. (David McAuley)

After a session of conflicting recollections of past committee meetings and votes, ANC 1B voted against accepting the settlement agreement that would have kept the tavern license for the Fainting Goat on track (they were formerly called voluntary agreements). Attorney Michael Fonseca, representing the Fainting Goat, told the meeting that his client had been “kicked to the curb” and “treated very badly.”

Missing Piece of the Puzzle

The vote against accepting the settlement agreement was five to two, with two abstentions. Voting against were Commissioners E. Gail Anderson Holness, ANC 1B-11; Juan Lopez, ANC 1B-07; Marc Morgan, ANC 1B-01; Ricardo Reinoso, ANC 1B-05; and James Turner, ANC 1B-09.

Voting for the agreement were Commissioners Zahira Jilani, ANC 1B-12; and Emily Washington, ANC 1B-08. Abstaining were ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (District 10) and Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed, ANC 1B-3.

The missing piece of the puzzle was absent Commissioner Jeremy Leffler, ANC 1B-02, chair of the ANC 1B Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee. Jilani, speaking on Leffler’s behalf, claimed that the ABC Committee had voted at its February 21 public meeting to recommend accepting the agreement, at least in part.

Pushback from SDCA

Members of the community who were present at the February ABC Committee meeting, led by members of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), pushed back, saying that they had been present and no such vote had been taken publicly.

Jilani admitted that she had not been at the meeting and was only repeating what Leffler had told her. Two other members of the public, seemingly unaffiliated with the SDCA, agreed that they had been present at the meeting and no vote had been taken. No one present recalled a vote being taken, although Jilani cited meeting minutes which claim that the motion to accept the agreement with the Fainting Goat had passed.

SDCA has recently been in the public spotlight as the driving force behind the proposed 14th and U Street liquor license moratorium. Even before last night’s ANC meeting, the SDCA had planned to protest Fainting Goat liquor license application, with a view of obtaining a settlement agreement more to their liking.

In spite of this, Fainting Goat management and their attorney had an amiable February 21 public meeting with SDCA, where the two parties agreed to disagree. At that time, SDCA alcohol licensing committee chair Elwyn Ferris even praised Fonseca’s work cooperating with the committee.

In the end, the Fainting Goat got caught in a feud not of their making, fueled by a combination of citizen mistrust and sloppy government. Leffler was absent, and the ANC1B commissioners present had not been adequately briefed. SDCA members told ANC 1B that the public still had until March 11 to file protests with the DC government about the application, so an ANC vote now would be premature. Holness Anderson said that she could not vote to approve the agreement because it must “go to the community first.”

Settlement Agreements

Settlement agreements are normally negotiated between liquor-serving establishments and interested members of the community. They cover topics such as hours of operation, time of trash pickup, sidewalk cafés, valet parking, vermin control, among others. You can download a model settlement agreement. They were called voluntary agreements, or V.A.s prior to the passage of new alcoholic regulation legislation by the DC Council and mayor, which went into effect in January.

There are signs that ANC 1B may try to improve its communication with public. At the meeting’s end, it was announced that ANC1B had just rolled out a new website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The general email address for ANC 1B is 1b[AT]anc.dc.gov. It was pledged that meeting announcements and other relevant information would be posted in these places in the future.

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  • Only in DC — Someone’s business enterprise ruined by clowns that can’t get their act together. I feel bad for the folks at Fainting Goat. I wonder how much money they had to shell out for a lawyer to attend a meeting where there was no recollection of the prior minutes, or votes taken, and the Chair of the Alcohol Cmte being absent. Class Act ANC-1B.

  • Steve

    This is why so many people, rightfully, despise ANCs and call for them to be abolished. These people — none of them small business owners themselves — think nothing of wasting the time and money of people who want to open a business. I have seen similar events take place at other ANCs over the years. They haul in someone who wants to open a business… he or she has an architect and lawyer in tow. Then, the ANC wastes hours on piddling stuff and by the time they get to the applicant, it’s too late. “Oh! Can you come back next month?” I think people ought to be able to sue ANCs in situations like this, for costs incurred.

  • Bernard

    Good story about a sorry incident. I’ve been at a number of ANC full and sub-committee meetings, and can attest to its terrible lack of organization. I’ve long waited for a Post story examining just how much bad, or at times illegal, things go on in these groups.

  • freddy

    estrada et al. move to the burbs bro!

    • Logan Circlite


  • Earl

    Certainly a few of the ANC commissioners deserve a lot of blame, particularly Leffler, who really left everyone in a tough spot. He ought to publicly apologize to these well-meaning business owners who are probably losing a bunch of money due to this mess. And the feckless majority who voted no seemed intimidated by a vocal few, most of whom don’t even live in 1B.

    The small group called “SDCA” didn’t ask the owners to address any specific operational issues. I have to imagine that’s because the issue that SDCA has with Fainting Goat is simply that it is an establishment that will have a liquor license. They used Leffler’s incompetence to forward an argument that regular order wasn’t followed. It’s a real shame, because the Fainting Goat team seems to want to do the right thing and address community concerns.

  • Just Me

    While all of you are blaming the ANC’s, lets remember, that while the ANC should be dealing with these real issues, the SDCA is occupying the majority of their time related to ABC issues dealing with the SDCA’s moratorium application that solves nothing and that is only supported by them.

    That Ellwyn Ferris is representing this groups ABC issues tells anyone familiar with him that this group will oppose each and every license regardless of merit and will use every trick, rule, or stalling tactic possible to drain the accounts of businesses trying to open their doors. This has been the MO of Ellwyn and Ramon for the last two decades.

    Problem is those of us who have dealt with them in the past are tired of the complete waste of time it is having any dialogue with them, dialogue is another of their delaying tactics, they have no intention of comprimise ever.

    Truly a shame as they don’t achieve anything, they just use rules to manipulate.

    • Earl


    • Tim the Tyrant

      So what you’re saying is that ANC 1B is not responsible for it’s dysfunction, SDCA is?

      • Just Me

        No Tim the Tyrant, the size, diversity of issues, and scale of activity in ANC 1B can easily match any other in the city. Couple that with a recent election of a batch of new commissioners that just took office in January and you have a recipe for potential chaos and a need to learn the office by many.

        What SDCA is responsible for is wasting the communities valuable time that needs to be focused on working on taddressing the actual issues outlined as justification for the moratorium, which does nothing to address those issues.

        SDCA ran a candidate on this platform for ANC, he lost badly. They shopped the ideas for the moratorium around at other community meetings and found no support, so what do they do, they go ahead and file anyway. SDCA is a selfish bunch of individuals who are feeling left out ever since Peter Raia go booted and Alex Zwerdling realized how crazy they truly are.

        • Tim the Tyrant

          Well first of SDCA never ran or indorsed any candidates and second of all if these people want to be ANC Commissioners they need to learn the job and stop wasting everyone’s time. Finaly the meeting your complaining about had nothing to do with the moratorium. So you should get your fact straight before you start complaining.

        • Just Me

          Dan Wittels a founding board member of SDCA ran for ANC1B-12 on the basic platform that SDCA stands for and only go 10% of the vote.

          Zahara Jilani, 329 (36.3%)
          John C. Green, 295 (32.6%)
          Erling Bailey, 168 (18.5%)
          Dan Wittels, 98 (10.8%)
          Write-In, 16 (1.8%)

          Maybe SDCA didn’t formally endorse Dan, but they were behind his candidacy and platform and it failed badly.

          I’d rather have newcomers who need to learn the job and are willing to represent the majority of constituents, rather than the SDCA rule manipulators that refuse to accept that they aren’t representing anyone but themselves.

          I know which meeting I am reffering to and which ANC, not sure what you are talking about.

  • ANClowns

    Good for the SDCA. ANB1B is a joke. A bad joke.

  • T Street

    The SDCA and its supporters on Wallach Place are absolute tyrants. We cannot let them dictate the future of our neighborhood.

    • Just Me

      Tyrants actually wield power. These charlatans are just a bunch of manipulative time wasters with no authority except over their tiny little neighborhood group.

      Its amazing that even though they shopped the idea of a moratorium to other groups for support and found no takers, they still filed forcing the ANC’s to weigh in and the ABRA staff to process their petition. What a shameful waste of community resources by a selfish group.

    • Dan Wittels

      Yes, our goal on Wallach Place is to take over T street and rename it Wallach Place South. Once we accomplish this we’ll impose marshal law, take all your beer and drink it our self’s! You’ve been warned 😉


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