From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.
Last century, back in 1990 — before many of us were even born — the then residents of Dupont Circle were just beside themselves. They were deep in the throes of fighting a war. Their neighborhood was under attack.
Something simply had to be done to stem the rapid and unrestricted investments made in their community by evil, cash-hungry, noise-making, trash-piling restaurant and bar owners.
These greedy, profit-piling, pillagers came in — most of them foreigners — and started leasing and buying up empty, sometimes abandoned storefronts. They began, through years of hard work, clever financing, mutually beneficial partnerships, and other arrangements commonly employed by the “business community,” to transform them into money-making ventures.
Some succeeded, others failed. Some are still open for business. Most served a popular intoxicant, a liquid found throughout the world, an ancient substance with unknown properties: alcohol. What was worse, the owners of the storefronts, building, basements and the like also found themselves motivated by the much touted American dream of feeding their families, and making an honest buck.
So in one selfish act after another, they threw the deep love they were supposed to feel for their neighbors by the wayside, and they sold out, they rented space, or sold their land to these horrible people — to these bar owners. It just makes me sick.
That war begun 23 years ago has raged on, leaving a trail of casualties in its midst. Many of those residents are now dead. Those who survived are now 23 years closer to death, these veterans and heroes.
Though what one can imagine required the all-day efforts of countless retirees, the residents decided to take real action. Why fight each and every evil business person head on, why write so many letters, and voice so many complaints? That would have taken much more diligence than these sound-haters could muster. Even if they had time for it, which they did, why admit it?
Wasn’t it better to pretend they had to get up for work the next day? Well, of course it was. Rather than address the uncooperative, cash-rich, booze-sellers, why not abuse an element of DC government put in place after Home Rule was instituted in 1974? Why not manipulate the system granting Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs ( they even sounds flaccid ) “great weight” in the granting of liquor licenses? What better way was there for small group to influence entire neighborhoods?
In their lame fury the residents succeeded in beating down the wrong adversary. You see, rather than face the current threat, rather than engage in a conversation hoping to negotiate a peace with the existing “business community,” the restaurateurs and bar-owning scum of the era — those who caused them annoyance beyond convenience — they decided, rather than fight what was, they would wage a battle into the future, they would prevent more businesses from daring to open new alcohol selling businesses on their streets.
Not in their back yards, no ma’am. No, never again.
As they could not win against what was already there, the residents would prevent new businesses from opening. Brilliant! The new investors would be punished for the sins of their ancestors. Sounds fair.
Thus was born the East Dupont Circle Liquor License Moratorium, although it’s commonly called the 17th Street moratorium. It has come up for renewal every five years since 1990 — it is up for renewal in 2013 because the decision was made three years ago to review it again this year instead of waiting five years.
I walk past their success everyday. Empty, unpainted, uninhabited storefront after storefront bedazzled with fading “For Lease” signs. What a beautiful sight it is, their success. The little group of residents got exactly what they wanted. Their victory against progress took the shape of a moratorium, a theoretically temporary cessation in the granting of more liquor licenses, the success of which is obvious.
Twenty-three years later there are fewer restaurants and bars on 17 Street — while moratorium-free, business friendly 14th Street has been transformed into a thriving community. This moratorium, set to expire on September 23, after four extensions (each supported by ANC 2B) of it’s original sell-by date has severely handicapped competition. It has made the idea of opening a new business on 17th Street near to impossible — and the impact of that is real.
A quick stroll down from R street to P street will leave one wondering in just how much laundry, and pill popping our community engages in. Pharmacies, and dry cleaners outnumber restaurants. The lateral expansion of two highly rated, critically acclaimed restaurants was a highly contested, and costly affair. Both Hank’s Oyster Bar, and Komi were finally allowed to expand to buildings adjacent to their existing locations, but not before hearings, and meetings, and “listening sessions,” all designed to address the same complaints of the past, from the same five people — complaints that were never directed at either restaurant to begin with.
Whether or not this moratorium is allowed to expire is anyone’s guess. Eventually it will, but when? In five more years, when another five storefronts are empty? Residents and businesses must realize that the future of the neighborhood in which they live and operate in is at stake. Our street’s bars and restaurants have each been open for years — their owners and operators have proved themselves to be valuable contributors to the community. Any suggestion otherwise is insulting.
On our street the reality is, longevity is the rule. Annie’s, the Paramount Steakhouse has been serving burgers here since 1948. The Trio restaurant predates even that.
Jr’s Bar has opened their doors — and their checkbook — for our community since 1985! Floriana Nestore bought the failing Mercury Grill in 2001, re-branding it Floriana, and it continues to thrive in the hands of her son. Generation after generation has proven themselves to these people, but it never seems to be enough.
Maybe as I age I will need enough medication and artwork to see the benefit of another pharmacy, and a third frame-shop on my street. But until then, I find myself hungry for something better. I guess I’ll walk over to 14th Street to find it.
The next ANC “listening session” will take place June 24 at 7 pm at the Chastleton Ballroom, 16th and R NW.
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From Maggie Barron. You can reach her at maggie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @rookerysf.
Jeez, what do you have to do to get something banned around here? Bans and moratoria are falling on tough times. There’s the defeat of the large soda ban in New York City. Protests against the nudity ban in San Francisco (yes, public nudity was perfectly legal there until two months ago).
And now, closer to home, the proposed moratorium on U Street liquor licenses meets an icy reception at a recent neighborhood listening session.
People don’t like banning things. It seems so final. So severe. No nudity in public places — not just “let’s reduce the relative amount of nudity.” So harsh. Even a moratorium sounds draconian. Five years? Where will I be in five years? Will alcohol even be legal in five years? No one knows for sure.
That’s why I’ve come up with a list of proposed moratoriums that I think could actually pass with flying colors. Nothing too restrictive, just those things that we’ve had enough of. See what you think:
The following eight things, in three categories, shall be prohibited for a period of no less than five years from today.
Food and Drink
- Beet and goat cheese salads: Yes, they are delicious. But there’s no other way to make beets taste good? And if there isn’t, can you serve us something else? It’s been on your menu for ten years…
- The word “artisanal.” After years of abuse, the privilege of using “artisanal” to describe a food, craft or other noun shall be revoked until further notice. To be honest, the blanket use of the term (artisanal croutons, artisanal gelato) is kind of making us foodies sound like jerks.
- Cocktails costing more than $10. A few places that make really nice cocktails have now made it acceptable for everyone to start charging $12+ for a drink. The other night I ordered what appeared to be a Greyhound except the bartender repeatedly slapped a single basil leaf between his palms and then delicately placed it on top. So I basically paid a $2 premium to have my basil spanked. No more!
- Wearing Uggs in public. Yes, I know they are warm. So are Snuggies and Russian ushankas, but no one wears those outside. This is DC, not Siberia. (And while we’re talking about comfortable clothing that should be severely curtailed, I second Dafna Steinberg’s piece on yoga pants).
- Wearing bicycle helmets without buckling the chin strap. Nothing better conveys the message, “I care about my safety, but in a weirdly ambivalent way,” than not buckling your helmet strap. I see these people way more often than I’d expect. Do they not realize this defeats the purpose of a helmet and yet still gives them helmet hair, so it’s really the worst of every possible option?
- The phrase “retweets are not endorsements” on Twitter profiles. Is there anyone who says “You know what? My retweets are endorsements! Every single one!” No. So let’s all agree to ditch the disclaimer. (P.S. we also know that you are tweeting your own views and not those of your employer… but disclaimers don’t actually mean you can’t get in trouble, FYI)
- Facebook status updates that tell me how much you have recently exercised. All updates such as “8.5 miler today — feeling great!” shall be immediately banned until further notice.
- Complaints about “spoilers” because you haven’t watched a popular show yet. The entire internet does not have to be quiet until you catch up on your DVR. Sorry.
I really think I’m on to something here. Enforcement may be an issue, though…
From David McAuley. Email at david[AT]borderstan.com
Advisory Neighborhood Council (ANC) 2F members criticized a controversial proposal for a liquor license moratorium for the 14th and U street area at a public meeting last night, but then voted unanimously to support holding joint public hearings with neighboring ANCs about it. ANC 2F covers the Logan Circle area.
ANC 2F Chairman Matt Raymond declared that he was “leaning strongly against” the moratorium, and Commissioner John Fanning, chair of ANC 2F’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Committee, said that he was “leaning towards not supporting” it.
However, the commission agreed with resolution’s statement that the matter was best handled at one or more joint meetings of the ANC districts that are likely to be affected by the moratorium, specifically, ANC districts 2B, 1B and 6E.
Raymond hoped that the joint meetings would be able to take place on or around March 20, but an exact date had not been set. Commissioners also said that the statement had been circulated to the relevant neighboring ANCs, all of which, by law, must pass a similar resolution before joint hearings can take place.
No one from either of the two organizations supporting the petition, the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance or the Residential Action Committee, identified themselves as present at the meeting, and a request to find anyone present who would speak for the proposal was met with a deafening silence. One local resident eventually spoke up to note that “there are people who are concerned”.
Also last night, ambiguous signals came out of meeting of neighboring ANC6E. A tweet from the Shawington Times confirmed that ANC6E passed an anti-moratorium resolution last night. It is not clear what effect this would have on ANC2F’s proposal for a joint meeting.
The DC Council would have to pass legislation approving the moratorium.