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Dupont ANC Scolds Claudia’s Steakhouse Over ‘Disregard’ for Public Space

by Tim Regan — November 12, 2015 at 3:55 pm 5 Comments

Commissioners with Dupont Circle’s ANC 2B had some strong words for Claudia’s Steakhouse (1501 K St. NW) over allegations that the restaurant repeatedly blocked a sidewalk and bike lane along 15th Street NW several times since it opened in June.

Marlon Alfaro, general manager at Claudia’s; David Bowing, assistant general manager at Claudia’s; and Ben Tesfaye, valet parking manager for Claudia’s valet company, U Street Parking, attended the ANC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday to request that two metered parking spaces near the restaurant be allocated for evening valet parking use.

“[The restaurant] is located in an area where parking is difficult,” Tesfaye said. “There are garages in the area, but unfortunately they do close early.”

“We’re looking at eight to ten cars a night,” he continued. “Two, three people per car, spending $35 or $40, that’s a lot of revenue for the restaurant.”

But ANC 2B chair Noah Smith had some criticisms for the steakhouse’s previous operations along that stretch of 15th Street.

“What you’re asking us to do is to support your valet parking permit, which is essentially the use of the public parking,” Smith said. “But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been severely disappointed with your use of public space since you’ve opened.”

Smith said that in September, he personally observed the steakhouse operating a valet service without a permit and in the 15th Street NW bike lane. The commissioner also took issue with the restaurant’s stanchions, which he said were often improperly placed on the public sidewalk or in the bike lane.

Smith added that when he complained to the restaurant in-person, he was told to leave by a manager.

“I’m around here a lot, I bike down the cycle track a lot. I don’t know if either of you recognize me, but I’ve been in your restaurant before and I’ve asked you about your use of public space, and I was not greeted with a warm fuzzy neighborly feeling that I may have expected to be,” said Smith. “That’s pretty disappointing to me.”

A different valet company that had worked with the steakhouse until recently could be the source of some of the problems, responded Tesfaye. He also said the restaurant relocated its stanchions when a DDOT inspector made a similar complaint.

“Why’d you correct it when [DDOT] corrected it but not when I walked in?” responded Smith. “You just have not struck me as operators who learn the rules and apply them. Until you do, I simply cannot support any more infringement in the public space than there already has been.”

In response, Tesfaye insisted that the lack of valet parking could hurt the company’s bottom line, and asked the commission to work with the steakhouse to find a compromise.

“We’re trying to help this restaurant stay in business,” said Tesfaye. “Parking makes a big difference.”

“You’re the one with the $100 drink, right?” quipped Smith, to laughs from everyone in the room.

Smith, along with several other commissioners, suggested that the steakhouse work out its issues, then come back in several months to try again.

Commissioner Mike Silverstein, 2B06, had the final word on the matter. “We simply cannot ever reward a bad actor or someone who treats us the way that our chair was treated when he brought up your violations,” he said. “As they say at a velodrome, what comes around goes around.”

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to oppose Claudia’s valet permit application, citing, among other issues, a “repeated disregard for the neighborhood they operate in, as evidenced by their violations of the conditions of their public space permit.”

Comments (5)

  1. Their sidewalk and street operation is annoyance to the neighborhood. Glad they got what they deserved!

  2. If I go there to dine, I would like a valet to park my car.

  3. What’s more important is that the staff Claudia’s employs learns to cope with declining revenue and possibly losing their jobs because some commissioner who thinks he is a track bike racer doesn’t like Claudia’s attitude. Liberalism isn’t desgined to help the downtrodden as much as it is to make elites feel good about themselves.

  4. It appears that His Royal Highness, Noah Smith, only thinks clubs/bars/restaurants are bad operators when they don’t recognize him and his almighty ANC chairman power. Note to bars etc., invite him in, buy him a drink, listen to his demands, and you’ll be rewarded by getting whatever you ask for. Happy about the end result but I’ve never seen this conviction when his constituents are at odds with bad operators. For example, see Public Bar where he didn’t quite understand why the neighbors were protesting expanded roof top hours when Public can’t operate within the law and settlement at the hours it already has.

  5. This was the right decision. There is no absolute right to parking on the streets – such a privilege is granted by municipalities. And on 15th Street NW, there is a 2-way bike lane that is an active traffic lane, 24-7. The ownership of Claudia’s decided that the bike lane wasn’t, in fact, a traffic lane, and treated it as their own property for a valet service that likely used public street parking that was not in their operational permit (most valet services have absolute requirements that parking garages be used whenever possible, and that curbside parking be reserved for non-valet use).

    Yes, the way this article is written makes Commissioner Smith come across as a bit arrogant, but the real arrogance is that of the operators of Claudia’s. And face it: if an urban restaurant can’t survive without valet parking when ample alternate means of getting to and from said restaurant exist, they both don’t get it and aren’t long for this world. Run an urban restaurant like a suburban business: expect to hit some bumps.

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