From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Raj Multhani, manager of Policy Restaurant (1904 14th Street NW), is seeking to terminate an agreement because he says it puts the restaurant at a competitive disadvantage.
“This agreement has hamstrung this establishment,” Multhani told the regular monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Committee 2B/Dupont on June 12. ANC 2B voted to protest termination of the agreement when the matter comes before DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.
Liquor-serving establishments in the Borderstan area normally enter into “settlement agreements” (formerly known as “voluntary agreements”) with local ANCs, community groups and neighbors.
These agreements normally may deal with the hours of operation of the establishment (both inside and outside if applicable), the time and frequency of garbage pickup, vermin control, valet parking, outdoor seating and other details.
Policy Restaurant’s settlement agreement is with ANC 2B, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and a group of five neighbors. Since Policy has opened, many restaurants with more liberal settlement agreements have started up nearby.
“Things have changed around us,” Multhani said. “No other establishment has the restrictions that Policy has.”
Multhani and his attorney talked about the ways that their current settlement agreement limits Policy’s ability to operate. Policy cannot expand into its basement space. It must restrict the hours when it can receive deliveries to an even narrow period than that allowed by law. It cannot offer live music.
The most contentious issue, however, seems to be hours of operation. The current settlement agreement specifically lists Policy’s hours of operation, which are also the same hours that restaurants are normally allowed to operate. However, several times a year the DC government gives liquor licensees leave to stay open later on special occasions, most frequently on the Sunday evening of three-day weekends.
When Policy wishes to stay open as late as its neighbors, it must seek out all of the parties to their settlement agreement and get their permission. Some parties have refused to give permission.
Elwyn Ferris, Secretary of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance, appeared as a representative of the group of five neighbors.
“It is vitally important that the voluntary agreement stay in place,” Ferris said.
Commissioner Noah Smith, 2B-09, proposed the motion to protest the termination of the settlement agreement, but said that he hoped he could help negotiate an agreement which is satisfactory to all sides.
The final vote was 8-0 to protest the termination of the settlement agreement. Commissioner Mike Silverstein, 2B-06, recused himself from the vote because his position on the DC Alcoholic Beverage Control Board; Silverstein recuses himself on all ANC 2B liquor licensing matters.