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Compass Rose Still Fighting Red Tape, Community Opposition

by Borderstan.com June 13, 2013 at 8:00 am 8 Comments

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

"Compass Rose"

Compass Rose still fighting opposition at 1346 T Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Rose Previte and David Greene, aspiring proprietors of the bar/restaurant Compass Rose (1346 T Street NW), will try to take another slow painful step toward operation next Tuesday. That’s when the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) will hear the request of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) for a decision that will effectively prevent Compass Rose from opening.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street weighed in on the side of Compass Rose against the SDCA at its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, June 6. A motion by Commissioner Jeremy Leffler, 1B-02, to write a letter to the BZA supporting Compass Rose passed unanimously. Leffler is also the chair of ANC 1B’s liquor licensing affairs committee.

Previte and Greene announced their intention to open Compass Rose in January. They received the go-ahead for their liquor license in April in spite of resistance from the SDCA.

The SDCA is also the petitioner for a liquor license moratorium in the 14th and U Street area.

The story of the SDCA’s second front against Compass Rose is a complicated saga of the Uptown Arts-Mixed Use (ARTS) Overlay District, a zone created by the DC government in the hopes of encouraging development on the 14th and U Street corridors. This zoning overlay was supposed to limit the size and number of liquor licensees by limiting the frontage of liquor-licensees on any block to 50 percent.

The SDCA contends ANC1B and DC authorities have been deaf to its appeals to enforce the Overlay District, and more than one block in the area exceeds the 50 percent limit.

“The ANC has, on multiple occasions, discussed tools and other solutions to address the over concentration of liquor licenses (as opposed to a moratorium). When they had an opportunity to support the use of tools and solutions such as the enforcement of the ARTs Overlay, they refused to do so,” Sterling said in an email.

I am not a lawyer but, as far as I can tell from looking at the documents, there are two major points of contention. They are:

  • Is the ARTS Overlay District intended to apply only to businesses facing 14th Street, or does the district wrap around the corner of T Street? If the latter is the case, then Compass Rose, which will face T Street, will be subject to their restrictions.
  • Assuming the district wraps around to include T Street, does the total frontage of the area include more than 50 percent liquor licensees? In this case, there is a disagreement about whether the nearby Source Theater (1835 14th Street) is considered a liquor licensee for the purpose of frontage calculation. The Source Theater has a liquor license, but its primary use is not as an eating or drinking establishment, so DC authorities have ruled it should not count toward the frontage limit. The SDCA disagrees. If the Source Theater is not included in the frontage calculation, Compass Rose may open without exceeding the 50 percent limit.

“If the Board decides to deliberate, they would have 90 days to make a decision. We’ve already invested tens of thousands of dollars. As a tiny business, we watch every cent. Every day we are delayed and can’t open, it becomes harder. Three more months could be devastating,” Previte said in an email.

The public hearing concerning the SDCA’s petition will take place on Tuesday, June 18, at 1pm, at the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment, 441 4th Street NW.

Documents relating to the case can be viewed at the Interactive Zoning Information System of Office of Zoning by entering case number 18568 into the search bar.

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  • Logan Circlite

    How about a Kickstarter fundraising effort to relocate these crazy SDCA people somewhere else? Maybe a nice farming village of their choice in the Midwest?

  • Alexander

    What an unfortunate act of bad faith on behalf of this small citizen’s group. Despite previous statements, it’s clear that their protest was not designed to reach a negotiated agreement with the business owners that everyone could live with. Their hope is to destroy a local business owned by local residents before it even gets off the ground.

    David, while your headline is technically accurate, it reads as if there is some large-scale community movement to keep this business shuttered. That doesn’t seem to be the reality here.

    • 17th

      I agree Alexander. One of the most striking discrepencies in their argument for a moratorium was that no new local businesses could move in because the cost of rent – well here is a local business trying to open up and they won’t allow it.

      Another is how they push for enforcement of a zoning overlay that tries to encourage the arts while simultaneously arguing that the Source Theatre should be used to limit new businesses from opening. What if an art gallery opens and they want to serve wine at openings?

      Though their concerns about noise and traffic may be valid, their tactics and arguments seem to illustrate a total disconnect from reality.

  • 13th and T

    If the ANC has approved it perhaps the SCDA should stay out of it since the neighbors closely impacted have spoken. Or better yet, the SCDA could use its energy and resources to take down some of its months old signs that sill litter map posts on 13th st.

  • LoganRes

    DCRA has spent tens of thousands of our city’s tax dollars responding to SDCA and their non-stop requests for proprty records. They are a waste and drain of our city’s resources and revenue. Since they are not even an ANC with elected representation, why don’t we petition our council to require groups that are not recongized to pay back the city for the manhours spent on their nonsense.

  • Guest

    SDCA: Sore losers

  • Zapped

    I was going to comment but everyone else here has sufficiently explained why this is completely ridiculous and why the SDCA should be abolished and all members drowned in the Potomac.

  • StevenT

    The ARTS Overlay is a complete failure and should be removed. It was enacted to bring the “arts” back to U Street — that didn’t go according to plan. It added a provision to limit the number of alcoholic establishment and make it a day and night destination — that didn’t work. And it took the entire area and made it commercially zoned — so now all of the people who live in the mixed-use buildings are screwed because they they have lost most of their residential rights.


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