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Compass Rose Clears Hurdle Toward Liquor License

by Borderstan.com April 4, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 Comments

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

"Compass Rose"

Rose Previte addresses the ANC 1B committee on Tuesday. (David McAuley)

Compass Rose, a restaurant aiming to operate at 1346 T Street NW, took an important step toward a liquor license on Tuesday evening, April 2. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B‘s alcohol licensing affairs committee voted 10 to 4 to recommend a committee-drafted settlement agreement with Compass Rose to the full ANC, which serves the U Street area.

An agreement approved by the full ANC would help Compass Rose to plead its case for a liquor license before DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. There was one abstention and one committee member absent.

ANC 1B’s next meeting will be tonight, Thursday, April 4, on the second floor of the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.

“As we all know, it’s renewal season,” said ABC Committee chair Jeremy Leffler, ANC 1B-02, at the beginning of the meeting. In addition to the Compass Rose settlement agreement, the committee had eight “must to discuss” applications for renewals of liquor licenses on its agenda.

Previte said some of the protesters told her they didn’t want Compass Rose to open, and had attempted to micromanage the business, including dictating what was to be on the menu.

However, owing to the long and contentious nature of the Compass Rose debate, the committee had only considered three before the caretaker of the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW) said it was 9 p.m. and the building had to close. Leffler had to ask the other committee members to continue the meeting on the sidewalk outside the building.

The second speaker, SDCA Secretary Elwyn Ferris, said the main objection was concerning establishment’s operating hours. “We conceded the maximum hours, but we want them in the agreement,” Ferris said.

The Settlement Agreement

“I skipped work today to go over this line by line,” said committee member Zahra Jilani, ANC 1B-12, referring to the draft settlement agreement she presented to the committee. Jilani listed the details included in the agreement in an attempt to mollify the protesters, including:

  • Clean-up must be completed one hour after closing
  • No handbills
  • Interior soundproofing (“noise is one full page” of the agreement)
  • Applicant must consult a noise consultant
  • A full menu must be served until midnight
  • The installation of surveillance cameras

“We’re desperately trying to be a wonderful part of the community,” said Rose Previte, aspiring co-operator of Compass Rose with her husband, David Greene, at the start of the presentation. Previte said some of the protesters told her they didn’t want Compass Rose to open, and had attempted to micromanage the business, including dictating what was to be on the menu. Previte also mentioned the online petition in support of the liquor license launched at change.org, which has 250 signatures.

“We are residents as well as business owners,” said Previte. Greene later added that the couple plans to live over the business and raise their children there.

There were three groups protesting the application: the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), a group of 14 residents, and the owner of the neighboring property. The owner of the neighboring property, which contains the Cafe Saint Ex, did not appear at the meeting, so this protest was not considered.

Protesters Address Committee

The two remaining groups had an opportunity to present to the committee.

“I understand I don’t have the right to choose my neighbors,” said Erling Bailey, representing the group of 14 residents. “A place that sells alcohol affects our quality of life.” Bailey also said he was protesting the license because, during negotiations, the scope of the business changed: the proprietors had first claimed the business was going to be a restaurant, and then said it was a tavern.

The second speaker, SDCA Secretary Elwyn Ferris, said the main objection was concerning establishment’s operating hours. “We conceded the maximum hours, but we want them in the agreement,” Ferris said.

After much discussion, the crux of the problem seemed to be: if the operating hours are stated in the agreement, then licensees must seek written permission every time there is a special reason to keep their establishment open for a longer period, e.g., daylight savings time or Inauguration Day. If the hours are merely those stated by DC law, no additional written permission is necessary if the DC government agrees to extend operating hours for a special occasion. Neither side was willing to budge on this issue.

In the end, the agreement as written by Jilani was passed by the committee with small modifications. A motion by SDCA President Joan Sterling to amend the agreement to specifically state the hours of operations was rejected.

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Comments (3)

  1. So what has SDCA succeed in doing here? Seems like nothing, except badger a well intentioned local business owner – who is a resident of our neighborhood – into spending thousands of dollars on a “noise consultant” and “surveillance cameras.”

    It’s possible, maybe likely, that the business would have invested in those items anyway. But the idea that a small group can essentially require a private business to do so is chilling.

    Let’s not kid ourselves that there was anything “voluntary” about this agreement. The business knew that this crew of pro-moratorium folks hoped to use DC code to their advantage to make the business give up their pursuit of a license – or even give up their plans to open the establishment. So the business agrees to spend money at SDCA’s behest.

    It was only because of the growing community outcry that the ABC committee recognized this and voted to approve the application.

  2. In a sense it’s ironic that these busybodies forced the owners to install security cameras. At least with the cameras, they can get footage of the local busybodies peering in their back door to see if they preparing the food to their liking.

  3. “No Handbills”…does that mean the establishment wont plaster telephone poles with flyers announcing events? I wonder if SDCA will hold themselves to the same standard – their pink flyers announcing a long ago meeting are still up all over the neighborhood.

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