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Shaw ANC Votes to Protest Dacha Expansion

by Jordan-Marie Smith July 8, 2015 at 10:45 am 2,616 20 Comments

(Updated at 3:41 p.m. to correct name misspellings, add additional statements from Dacha, and accurately reflect the ANC voting process)

Shaw beer garden Dacha has hit a roadblock in its proposed 600-person capacity expansion.

The 6E Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) voted to protest Dacha Beer Garden’s request for an expanded liquor license and capacity during its monthly meeting at Shaw Library last night.

In March, Dacha asked the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to allow it to expand its capacity to 600 people, up from its current capacity of 126.

The 3 to 2 vote — commissioner Alfreda Judd abstained — came after one of Dacha’s litigation attorneys, Scott Rome, and deputy general manager Nina Liggett gave a presentation to the packed basement room in Shaw Library.

Rome said Dacha is facing nine incident reports — eight for capacity violations — but emphasized the lengths co-owners Ilya Alter and Dmitri Chekaldin have taken to soundproof walls and reinforce fences.

“Even if we consider your application, how in the world are we going to have any control since you don’t obey what you are allowed to have now?” 6E05 Commissioner Marge Maceda responded. “How can we assume that you’re going to stick within the limits that you are able to have if we increase it?”

Both Rome and Liggett proposed that Dacha would build another fence and increase wall insulation for soundproofing if the 600-person capacity request was approved.

Some Shaw residents who showed up to the meeting publicly expressed concerns about what the increased capacity might mean for the neighborhood.

Katie Peters and husband Brian said that even though they support Dacha’s sound abatement efforts, the noise level already disturbs their sleeping infant and toddler and will only get worse if capacity increases.

But 7th Street NW resident David Abensour was not convinced the nightly noise comes from Dacha.

“My window is literally between Dacha and Uptown and I can tell you after midnight the noise doesn’t come from Dacha,” Abensour said.

Liggett said today by phone that she believes more than 50 people came out to support the beer garden, and that she wanted to address the commissioners’ concerns after the meeting, but was not able to due to time constraints.

“We wanted to give time for the community to talk,” Liggett says. “Unfortunately, I did not get to deliver a rebuttal at the end [because the library was closing].”

After hearing a long list of community comments — with several still in line to speak — 6E01 Commissioner Alexander Padro motioned to vote on the standing protest Dacha received from the commission’s ABC subcommittee last Thursday.

While Padro unwavered in his opposition, some anticipated upsetting their constituents.

“No one who represents a group of people wants to anger any segment of that group,” said 6E02 Commissioner Kevin Chapple. “But sometimes you have to.”

The council voted against Dacha’s proposed expansion by a vote of 3 to 2.

After the vote, Rome announced that Dacha would like to keep discussions between the business and residents open.

Rome also requested 6E ANC appoint a representative to work with Dacha when it comes to neighborhood issues and future expansion. He pointed out that Commissioner Padro repeatedly declined to speak with Dacha, to which Padro said he refused because Dacha would not work with the area’s civic association.

We hope to move forward,” Liggett told Borderstan today. “Our ABRA hearings are coming up. We’ll prove our side. We take decibel readings every night and we are well below what is D.C. law,” she said.

The ANC has until Aug. 3 to file a formal protest against Dacha’s application.

Mural photo via Facebook.com/DachaBeerGarden

Comments (20)

  1. There are several errors in this article, can someone please tell me who to call to set the record straight?
    -Nina Liggett (this is how you spell my name, for instance)
    [email protected]

  2. What are the errors? I couldn’t attend the meeting.

  3. Vladimir Herrera

    DC Government meetings are a joke. Do you know how these so call officials got elected and who they really represent? Do your homework on these people, they got voted into this positions, but they represent some special interest or very few people, no one knows them. Next election comes they are easy to get rid off.

  4. Vander Clopersnickle

    They represent the community. Each is elected to represent a single-member district of a couple thousand residents. I was at the meeting, and I know the “history” of how several came into their elected (and unpaid position). For example, Kevin L. Chapple unseated a very unpleasant individual who did represent a minority of residents. I’m proud that Chapple represents me. Others equally work hard to balance the concerns of their constituents, the community, and all community members.

    It’s easy (but silly) to dismiss them as anything but thoughtful volunteers.

  5. Kevin Chapple trades favors with Alex Padro. Padro is the leader of the few protesters against Dacha. At least 5 people from Chapple’s district spoke and appealed to him directly at the meeting. He voted to protest nonetheless. Its a pity he did that.

  6. Vander Clopersnickle

    It was a silly vote: Accept 600, without question, or stay with 126. I am one of Chapple’s constituents, but it’s not fair to put a 600 person venue on a residential street just so I can walk two blocks to enjoy it, ignoring the harm to neighbors. Nothing about that makes Chapple someone who doesn’t care about his community.

  7. Its true. It was a silly vote. But Padro specifically spun the 600 number without really stipulating what is what and where. Dacha wants 350 for outside – an increase from 126 or 190 depending on how you look at it. They don’t want 600 for outside! And they want 250 for the inside once they spent money to build that inside. Right? I think that to have 350 for outside is reasonable. I’ve seen what they’ve done with the back of the lot. That fence is pretty tall. And when you stand outside (when I unlock my bike) the sound is really not bad at all…even when they are packed.

  8. Vander Clopersnickle

    I guess I’ll have to object to the statement that 350 outside is reasonable. That’s not a quite neighborhood establishment. And that means 350 people, each of whom are trying to speak over 349 OTHER people. I have heard Dacha was I’ve approached from Q and 6th, before I have ever seen it. I love it there; I’m just happy I don’t live within 400 feet of it.

  9. TheManwithThePlan-DC division

    ANCs are a corrupt talking shop filled with awful people wielding what little power they have like a mallet. I’ve only met one commissioner who wasn’t an oxygen thief, stealing money from taxpayers. One. In decades.

    Thorpe very much represented people in that area. They too were hateful bigots and he was their king.

  10. Vander Clopersnickle

    Kevin Chapple has done a wonderful job representing his constituents, after replacing Former ANC Commissioner Mahdi Leroy J. Thorpe. Thorpe did not represent his constituents well.

    Alexander Padro’s demand that Dacha work with the East Central Civil Association is an attempt to return power to Thorpe, who is the President of ECCA. Don’t be fooled.

  11. You mean Central Shaw Neighborhood Association? The one that actually asked ANC to vote on this protest? Dacha tried very hard working with Padro’s second in command – Mr. Brian Peters, the President of CSNA for months now. Peters testified yesterday and said that noise from Dacha keeps him up. Dacha’s rep rebutted by mentioning that they’ve been taking decibel readings at and around his house. She said that there is no impact on his house by Dacha. She also mentioned that Peters’ house pretty much backs up to Uptown club that stays open till 2am and plays music.

    Its not well known that it was Alex Padro who voted to support Uptown’s request to amplify music and expand its entertainment hours back in Dec of 2012

    http://abra.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/abra/publication/attachments/Uptown%20Ethiopian%20Fusion%20Cuisine%20-%20December%2012%202012_0.pdf

  12. You should probably note that Dacha’s application is for 600 of which:
    1. 250 Inside
    2. 350 Outside

    With hours remaining the same for Outside and 2am for the Inside only,

    The Inside would be a new 3-story addition to the back of the historic house that has the mural of Liz Taylor on it. The render in the article’s photo shows the interior concept of the new Dacha sit down restaurant – a double story main hall with a huge mural by the renowned DC based artist Anna U Davis.

    Alex Padro Voted to protest
    Kevin Chapple Voted to protest
    Frank Wiggins Voted to protest

    Rachelle Nigro Voted to support
    Marge Maceda Voted to support

    Alfreda Judd Abstained

    Antonio Barnes (the new 6E06 Commissioner) Absent

    By far not a resounding victory for Mr. Padro who leads the crusade against Dacha.

  13. A few years ago Dacha promised the neighborhood a 112 seat beer garden, no bigger than Garden District, with a calm atmosphere, which was primarily a seated concept. Neighbors, like me supported them publicly for two years while they set up their business with port-a-potties and other temporary facilities. We were promised that a building would be constructed in the rear of the lot to block the noise from broadsiding the residents neighboring them and to reduce outdoor drinking space. They also promised that they would not seek a substantial change of their business plan.

    As many of us have sunk our life savings into homes to raise our families, we took a major leap of faith to support a beer garden next to us – where many other neighborhoods will protest a few outdoor seats for a restaurant – we trusted that these commitments were made in good faith. We were assured that they were.

    After 2 years of crowds that often exceed 350 people (nearly triple their licenses capacity), and have been as large as 600 people, neighbors most immediately affected are concerned that Dacha is proposing a permanent 600 person occupancy, constructing a second level of outdoor drinking at our bedroom elevation, and have abandoned their commitment to build a structure on the original lot. We have been dealing with noise that keeps us awake at night and a vastly different business than was promised; concerns that we have conveyed to Dacha.

    We support expansion into the neighboring building, but an increase to 600 is alarming given existing noise concerns and the fact that the building is not yet ready for indoor patronage. Opposition to this change to their license is not a matter of shutting Dacha down. This is not a matter of getting in the way of a reasonable expansion. This is not a matter of preventing them from selling, literally, millions of dollars of beer. No one’s ability to drink at Dacha is in jeopardy.

    However, please understand the other side of the story. Remember that neighbors supported Dacha. We trusted them. Despite a major change of plans, that backs out of the most fundamental commitments they made to us, we would still like to support their expansion into the interior space.

    Commissioner Padro is known for his efforts to attract new businesses to Shaw and to support the economic revitalization of our neighborhood. That has included playing a pivotal role in supporting Dacha’s opening. He simply does not do so at the expense of the people who make Shaw their home. To say that he, Commissioner Chapple and Commissioner Wiggins are somehow corrupt or are siding with special interests for representing the concerns of families immediately impacted by a multi million dollar business that is breaking their commitments, is a gross mischaracterization of the tough position they took.

  14. Vander Clopersnickle

    Thank you for sharing. And your points are well made. A compromise between 126 and 600 is certainly in order.

    The only talking point I wish you and the other neighbors would modify is the discussion of the structure at the back of the lot. Dacha promised it–and tried VERY hard to accomplish it–and the DC historic board shut it down. And you may not know this, because only three customers of Dacha (and perhaps only one actual “neighbor” from that block) came to the hearing. That’s right, three. The historic board was obsessed with keeping the “nature” of 7th street, which they said demanded all construction be built up to the front of the lot that abuts 7th Street. They could never reconcile this with Dacha’s need to build a structure at the BACK, protecting you from sound and preserving the beer garden up front. The historic board’s demand would have both closed off the open (and safe) feeling of having people outdoors at the corner of 7th and Q, and at the same time would have pushed the outdoor patrons to the rear of the lot near your homes. It would have gone a long way for you to come and share the neighborhood perspective at the hearing. But you did not come.

    So please, at the very least, don’t hold that one deviation of Dacha’s against them.

  15. I agree there is plenty of room for negotiation. I can only speak for myself, but I would support the full 250 indoor space and adding 74 people to their outdoor capacity (to 200), if they agreed to not build any more outdoor capacity (eg the second floor balcony). Unfortunately, informal negotiations have not been particularly productive, and Dacha has not honored previous negotiations or even their ABRA licensed capacity limit, so that is an additional complication. The protest allows us to be a party to official ABRA negotiations. The protest is not a choice between 126 and 600.

    I weighed in with HPRB, Councilman Wells and Mayor Gray on
    Dacha’s behalf for the 2013 HPRB hearing. HPRB did not kill the original plans, and the suggested alternative from HPO incorporated the building in the rear of the lot.

    After considering testimony from neighbors and Commissioner
    Padro on Dacha’s behalf, the HPRB voted that Dacha did not have to come back to them to seek final approval of their plans and that they could just work with HPO. At that point they had cleared the HPRB hurdle for that set of plans.

    The main guy for Shaw’s historic district in HPO continued
    to push for Dacha to build a more significant open air facade off of the proposed building in the rear of the lot (see sketch in PoP 11/2013 post). Dacha said that HPO’s alternative was cost prohibitive for them and would cover the bottom of the mural, so we went to bat for them. A lot of pressure was put on HPO to relent on that position, and my understanding is that they did. If HPO had continued to be a problem, I would have been happy to continue pushing on the city, but I was told everything was moving along.

    The building was foundational to the promises made to neighbors in my opinion. It meant a reduction in the outdoor space. It meant a two-story sound mitigating structure. Aside from capacity, I don’t think there was a more important commitment. I cannot characterize one of the most significant terms of the agreement as a simple deviation.

    What I have been told directly is that the opportunity to expand into the adjacent existing building is what killed the building plans on the original lot. Easy to understand that choice. I get it; I really do. As I said, I support their expansion into that building.

    However, as they back out of their commitments, it would be
    nice for them to not concurrently pursue near-tripling their outdoor capacity,build an additional second story drinking space all while running a social media campaign to vilify the neighbors who supported two guys who had no track record set up a beer garden with trailers and portapotties outside of our homes.

  16. AnotherShawNeighbor

    Dear ShawNeighbor,

    I attended the meeting, and I do have a copy of the Voluntary Agreement, which was handed out.

    It seems that every protester speaks from the same talking points without bothering to actually fact check.

    1. Agreement and Promises

    A
    contract/agreement is a simple concept. Many things are said when
    negotiating one. However, not all of what is discussed makes it into a
    contract. What is in the contract is the Contract and what is not in
    it is Not a Contract. That’s how businesses operate.

    The
    Voluntary Agreement, as I heard, was written by Alex Padro who is smart, experienced
    and savvy. He put into this agreement what he meant. The agreement
    says a “maximum seated capacity shall be a 100 persons”. Not a total
    capacity, but SEATED capacity only. If Alex Padro wanted and meant to
    put a 100 persons total or any other number he would have done so; he did not. There is nothing in the agreement promising anything about total capacity.

    2. Comparison to Garden District

    There is nothing
    in the Voluntary Agreement that stipulates comparisons of Dacha to
    Garden District. Alex Padro referred in the meeting that Dacha was
    based on the concept of Garden District. He also said that Garden
    District has capacity of 95. For starters, Dacha is probably 3 times
    larger than Garden District. Secondly, if you’ve ever been to the
    Garden District on a busy day, seats are hard to come by, and there are a
    lot of people standing with their beers in hand. So while Dacha is similar
    in principle to Garden District, it is also simply larger in size.

    3. About the Building in the Back

    Voluntary
    Agreement states: “The applicant agrees to construct a permanent
    structure to house the operations initially conducted in trailers,
    specifically the operations trailer and bathroom trailer, on the
    premises no later than May 1, 2015, or the establishment shall not
    operate thereafter” Not only there is nothing about “the building in the
    back”, the agreement further says “The Licensee shall present plans for
    the permanent structure to both the Commission and adjacent neighbors
    and seek their suggestions and approval, which shall not be UNREASONABLY
    denied.” Please read the agreement and fact check before accusing
    someone of not meeting promises.

    4. Promise Not To Seek Substantial Change

    About
    not seeking Substantial Change. This is simply factually incorrect.
    Again, please refer to the Voluntary Agreement. This goes back to my
    previous point of forgetting to fact check and continuing to speak from
    the same talking points. When children say something that is not
    true, we tell them “Don’t Lie”. When their parents say something that is
    not true, we tell them…

    5. Sleepless Nights and Horror Stories

    I believe it was Mrs.
    Peters at the meeting who said that she wakes up because of noise from
    Dacha at 2am. That her children and others’ children cannot sleep
    because of noise from Dacha. Hold on… Doesn’t Dacha close at 10:30pm
    and midnight on weekends? So please, Mr. and Mrs. Peters – if you hear
    noise from Dacha and kegs dropping at 2am, then please call 911 immediately
    because their beer is probably being stolen! Oh and Mrs. Peters, if you
    still cannot sleep at 2am, maybe you should call Uptown club, which is
    located directly across from your backyard and ask them to lower the
    volume and maybe close their terrace door in the back. Also you may
    want to ask Alex Padro why he helped Uptown get approved to play
    amplified music and extend their entertainment hours to 3AM (as one of the commenters mentioned)!!! Maybe
    because they give money to Shaw Main Streets?

  17. The voluntary agreement you are referencing is just the document incorporated into the ABRA license. It is 1) limited to the items under ABRA’s jurisdiction and 2) a different document than the agreement between Dacha and the ANC that was agreed to, presented and voted on at the ANC meeting where Dacha narrowly gained the support of the Commission for their initial license application. That document codified the promises made to neighbors, and explicitly incorporated both items that are enforceable by ABRA and those that are not.

    I realize that Dacha would like you to believe that the ABRA document represents the only items they promised to neighbors. It is, unequivocally, not. The original ANC agreement is the foundation upon which neighborhood support was given. It preceded the ABRA document. The neighbor’s support is the only reason Dacha won that vote.

    You may not know about this document if you are just beginning to pay attention to this issue now, and have only been subject to one perspective that has been aggressively promoted.

    The fact is that the promises were made. They were agreed upon and presented both verbally over many discussions with Dacha’s owners and in a document in a public meeting. You may want to dig a little deeper before you start calling people liars.

    I think it is petty to lawyer these things point by point, when the issue of going from a 126 total capacity beer garden, through two and a half seasons of completely ignoring that capacity, to an application for a 600 person double-decker beer garden, is so profoundly apparent.

  18. AnotherShaw Neighbor

    Dear ShawNeighbor,

    Thank you for your response. So I did investigate further per your recommendation and found out…

    1. The Non-Existing OTHER AGREEMENT

    The only promises made by Dacha folks were those codified in
    the Voluntary Agreement between the ANC (with participation of the neighbors like the Peters) and Dacha. Then, that agreement was submitted to ABRA and, with minor deletions by ABC Board, “incorporated into the ABRA license”.

    So to be clear when you state “a different document than the
    agreement between Dacha and the ANC that was agreed to, presented and voted on at the ANC meeting where Dacha narrowly gained the support of the Commission
    for their initial license application” is simply NOT TRUE. There is NO OTHER AGREEMENT. The agreement ANC voted on is THE SAME AGREEMENT as IS now incorporated into the ABRA license.

    If you believe there was one, please find it, post it for
    everyone to read and send it to the Dacha folks because they don’t seem to be aware of it. It seems to me someone is purposefully mis-informing you and the others in your gang.

    2. Broken Promises

    When you say: “The original ANC agreement is the foundation
    upon which neighborhood support was given.” I do agree with this statement.

    Dacha and the neighbors need to accept the terms of this
    agreement whether either party likes it or not. That is why people make agreements IN WRITING. It seems to me, the Dacha folks have met ALL or a majority of their promises. The neighbors, however, are not innocent. It seems they have
    not allowed Dacha to help them, then say the Dacha broke promises. How can Dacha keep a promise that the neighbors won’t let them fulfill.

    My head hurts from the oxymoronic statements and hyperbole.

    When I read the document you so correctly called “the
    foundation”, there is NO total capacity limitation. So what are you complaining about? You should keep your end of the bargain! And if you don’t like the city noise, sell your house and move to Takoma Park! I bet you will get multiple offers on your house because you are lucky to be living near Dacha!

    Meet with them, ask them straight-forward questions, go to the table with ideas and solutions. Simply saying NO will get you nowhere!

  19. The ABRA agreement altered nearly half of provisions, deleted paragraphs and eliminated a section from the ANC agreement. I believe It can all be found on ABRA’s site.

    I am personally for the 250 capacity in the indoor space, and an increase to 200 in the outdoor space, in exchange for agreeing not to break the new agreement (perhaps wishful thinking) and dropping the second story balcony from the plan. That isn’t a ‘no’; that’s more than trippling their current capacity while letting them out of their previous agreement.

    Unfortunately, the 600 capacity and the balcony have been non-negotiables for Dacha for months. I haven’t heard any change from them on that position. If there is, I’d love to know. The ‘protest’ is not a 126 or 600 zero sum process; it allows for parties to be part of formal negotiations. So hopefully that process will result in an expanded Dacha that neighbors can live with.

    As for the building in the back of the lot; in addition to all of the provisions you quoted about construction ‘on the premisis’ (which would be 1600, not 1602), the settlement agreement required “The Applicant shall ensure the build out of the establishment maintains the spirit and aesthetic appearance presented in the renderings of the project provided to the commission”. The renderings provided to the Commission (and neighbors, and DCRA, and HPO, and HPRB) prescribed a building in the rear of the lot. This was such a core element of the agreement, presentations, negotiations, that it is absurd to say it was never promised or contemplated specifically in the agreement, in concept, intent and renderings. I would say that not building the building at all would be a violation of the spirit and aesthetic appearance presented in the renderings.

    So Dacha is regularly operating at triple their overall licensed capacity. They have ~50% more seating capacity than agreed to in the settlement agreement. They haven’t construced a building on the premisis by the May 1 deadline, and never will. They’re permanently expanding the first floor outdoor drinking where the building was supposed to be. They intend to construct a second story drinking space at our bedroom level. They want 350 people outside, and have a track record of ignoring capacity limits. They won’t bend on any of these elements… and your position is that they have upheld their promises and that neighbors are being unreasonable by being concerned?

    Living next to Dacha is not just city noise; it is city noise plus 350 drunk people. We’d just like it to be city noise plus 200 drunk people instead. Dacha will still make millions. You will still be able to drink there. You just might not be packed in shoulder to shoulder with someone else. That would be the only difference.

  20. TheManwithThePlan-DC division

    Mr Padro, if you’re going to be commenting you should do so openly.

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