DC Mayor Vincent Gray had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle on Thursday night. The mayor’s visit to the popular restaurant at 1624 Q Street NW happened as the restaurant is embroiled in another chapter of a seven-year-long regulatory battle with a small group of neighborhood residents. Hank’s Chef and owner Jamie Leeds greeted the mayor who acknowledged Leeds’ latest challenge.
Leeds told Borderstan that she said to Gray, “I just want my patio back.” According to Leeds, the mayor shared her frustration that a small group of people could dictate how a business may operate, even in the face of so much popular support. Shortly after Leeds was forced to downsize her patio, an online petition was circulated in support of Leeds and quickly attained more than 1,800 signatures.
Hank’s Oyster Bar most recent roadblock occurred just before the start of the annual gay pride weekend — one of the busiest times for the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. Leeds was forced to close half of her cafe’s outdoor seating after a DC Court of Appeals decision ruled that the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board) had erred in its 2010 decision that allowed her to terminate the voluntary agreement (V.A.) she had signed before opening in 2005.
Among other things, the V.A. controlled the hours service and size of the outdoor cafe portion of the restaurant. The case was remanded to the ABC Board and a hearing took place last month. A ruling is expected in a few weeks.
While the drama of Hank’s unfolded over the past few weeks, DC Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) has introduced legislation that would overhaul many of DC’s alcohol licensing laws. Among the 43 amendments and additions proposed in the legislation is a change in how close neighbors must live to a business before they may have standing to protest a liquor license application. The legislation was introduced last month and a hearing is scheduled for July 12 at 11 am in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.
From Tom Hay. Questions or comments for Tom? Send him an email.
The expansion, considered a “substantial change” in regulatory terms, has been a months-long effort by Hank’s owner and chef Jamie Leeds that began earlier this year and was followed by the filing of a protest by a group of neighborhood residents.
The December 8 order by the ABC Board granting the expansion did come with some conditions. Leeds must take reasonable steps to install soundproofing and mitigate any potential noise created by the interior or exterior of the establishment, since the expanded restaurant will now share a party wall with a residential property owned by Abdi Poozesh.
It was Poozesh’s testimony about noise concerns that was enough to sway the Board to address noise concerns in their order.
Read the ABC Board order allowing Hank’s to expand into the adjacent property.
From Tom Hay
Last night Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B voted to withdraw its recent protest of the planned expansion of Hank’s Oyster Bar into the adjoining storefront to the east of the restaurant. The vote was 7-0 with one abstention.
The ANC also passed a second resolution, unanimously, to support continued placarding of all substantial changes in 2B (details follow).
Public Notice of Substantial Change
The special meeting of ANC 2B started a new debate on public notice of substantial changes for an establishment with a liquor license. The meeting was planned shortly after an agreement had been reached with Jamie Leeds, chef and owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar, over the operating hours of the outdoor cafe portion of her restaurant at 1624 Q St. NW.
The original agenda for the meeting was to vote on a follow-up resolution to withdraw the ANC protest on the expansion plans for Leeds’ restaurant. Several ANC commissioners filed the protest with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board on Nov. 8, which was followed by an official ANC vote on Nov. 10; the vote was 7-1 with Jack Jacobson (2B04) voting no.
From Tom Hay
At last week’s November meeting, we reported that the ANC passed a resolution and filed a letter to request standing as a protestant in the effort by Hank’s owner, Jamie Leeds, to expand the restaurant into a neighboring building.
The ANC’s move was prompted by fears that the liquor license for Hank’s location would incorporate later hours for the outdoor seating area since the voluntary agreement (V.A.) had recently been vacated by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. Leeds had told Borderstan that she had no plans for later patio hours. However, the hours on the license would transfer to any new owner who may operate under the later hours.
From Tom Hay
It has been a roller coaster of a month for Hank’s Oyster Bar owner and chef Jamie Leeds. On Nov. 3, Leeds was notified by the DC Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board that she had been released from a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) . The restaurant had operated under the V.A. since opening in 2005 at 1624 Q Street NW, just off 17th Street.
But, less than a week later Hank’s was in the cross hairs of ANC 2B. At issue are the evening hours of the restaurant’s sidewalk patio on Q Street, and Leeds’ request to expand her restaurant into the adjacent empty storefront.
From Tom Hay
The DC Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has issued a ruling that allows Hank’s Oyster Bar to operate without a voluntary agreement (V.A.). The 4 to 2 vote follows a six-hour hearing on Oct. 13. (See 6-Hour Hearing But No Decision for Hank’s Oyster Bar.)
Borderstan learned of the ABC Board’s ruling today at a Board hearing on another matter related to Hank’s — its request to expand into an adjoining space. You can read the ABC Board ruling (PDF).
The ABRA transcript from the ABC Board hearing on Oct. 13 hearing is available (PDF).
Owner and chef Jamie Leeds signed the V.A. before opening in 2005, with a group of neighbors and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA). Leeds asked to be released from the V.A., which she could do after five years.
The protesting residents argued that a bad precedent would result if Hank’s were allowed to operate without a V.A. A number of other liquor-serving establishments on 17th St. already operate without one.
In addition, Leeds is trying to expand into an empty storefront just east of the restaurant at 1624 Q St. NW. The expansion is being protested by a group of 23 residents, and the hearing was held Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 3.
What was in V.A.?
Leeds said last month that the major operational restrictions under the V.A. were that Hanks’s had to stop serving alcohol two hours before the restaurant’s closing time, and that dinner could not be served outside one hour before closing time. In addition to restrictions on hours, the only labeling that can be on the patio umbrellas is “Hank’s Oyster Bar.”