From Tom Hay
The long lines for a table at Hank’s Oyster Bar may soon be a thing of the past. The popular restaurant at 1624 Q Street, just off the 17th Street corridor, has taken a few steps forward in obtaining approval to expand into adjacent space.
Chef and owner Jamie Leeds opened Hank’s in 2005 after a contentious negotiation process with several neighbors and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) over conditions of their Voluntary Agreement (VA).
Without a VA in place a business could risk losing a liquor license entirely if any opposing party takes the protest all the way to a DC Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) hearing. Hank’s current VA controls things like hours of operation, seating capacity and also prohibited expansion. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B-Dupont was not a party to the original VA.
With its liquor license up for renewal Hank’s has petitioned ABRA to vacate the VA that has been in place since 2005. Establishments are eligible to vacate a VA when their license is up for renewal and they have operated under the VA for four years. Hank’s has met both conditions.
Some recent actions by the Dupont Circle ANC have also eased some restrictions on expansion. First, ANC 2B voted to revise the 17th Street liquor moratorium to allow Hanks’s to expand, and then supported rezoning of the building adjacent to Hank’s from residential to commercial. ABRA notified ANC 2B of the petition to vacate the current VA and allowed them to comment or oppose.
An ANC board member’s motion to oppose the petition was not supported by a majority of the board. The four commissioners who favored Hank’s expansion were Mike Feldstein, Will Stephens, Victor Wexler and Jack Jacobson. The three commissioners against expansion were Bob Meehan, Ramon Estra and Phil Carney. Mike Silverstein did not vote as he is now the ABRA Board, and Bhavna Patel abstained.
Interestingly, the intersection of 17th and Q NW is where boundaries of four of ANC 2B’s nine single member districts meet. Wexler represents District 05, where Hank’s is located. Across the street (north side of Q) is District 04, which is represented by Jacobson. District 03 is represented by by Meehan and 07 by Carney. The third commissioner opposed to Hank’s expansion, Estrada, represents 09, which is in the far northeastern part of ANC 2B; he has been a vocal opponent of additional restaurants on the 14th and U corridor.
The DCCA and the individuals who were parties to the original VA may still oppose the petition to vacate. Hearings are scheduled for later this summer.
Leeds has long had ties to the Dupont-Logan area. She got her start here in 2002 at 15 Ria, located at 1515 Rhode Island Avenue NW in the Doubletree Hotel. Leeds and her restaurants were recently profiled in Metro Weekly.
At its March 11 meeting, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle approved a committee report on the future of the 17th Street liquor license moratorium. (Read March 4 Borderstan posting here on the issue.) The vote was 9 to 0 by ANC 2B to approve the committee’s report. The city’s liquor license commission must sign off on the resolution; ANCs are advisory in nature only and do not make law.
Borderstan.com learned that Joel Lawson resigned over the weekend as president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA). John Hockensmith is currently serving as Acting President. What was noteworthy is that Lawson resigned at a time when DCCA is involved in the discussions with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B and businesses over the 17th Street NW Liquor License Moratorium.
Borderstan.com asked Lawson to provide a statement regarding his resignation; it follows. An email query to Hockensmith regarding Lawson’s resignation has not been answered as of this time.
Note: If you are wondering, What’s this 17th Street-liquor-license-moratorium-brouhaha all about?… check out the links at the bottom of this posting (following Lawson’s statement) for more information.
Statement by Joel Lawson:
Well, if you plan to attend an ANC 2B/Dupont Circle meeting this year, I would pick the one next Wednesday. On the March 11 agenda are two notable items:
- “Report by the ad hoc Committee on the Dupont East Liquor Moratorium; consideration of proposed resolution on same.” This is the big kahuna and you canfind the committee’s recommendations here.The report presents the committee’s position on the 17th Street liquor license moratorium, which goes to the full ANC. This is a long and old story and I won’t go into the details here, but you can see Borderstan postings here and here. Long-time residents of the neighborhood will understand what the words “17th Street, liquor license moratorium, JRs Bar and Grille, DCCA and ANC 2B” all have in common. Note: ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B-04) has a posting on his Web site about the committee’s recommendation.
- “Presentation by DDOT on 18th Street Reconstruction project and announcement on 15th Street decision.” Probably nothing too exciting here, but it will be interesting to see if Borderstanians have anything to say about DDOT’s plan to put bicycle lanes on 15th Street NW while leaving traffic one-way north. See the Borderstan posting here.
The full agenda is below. Remember that West Borderstan is part of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle, while East Borderstan is in ANC 2F/Logan Circle. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center at 16th and Q NW.