41°Mostly Cloudy

by Tim Regan October 12, 2015 at 11:40 am 0

Left Door sign

Left Door, the forthcoming cocktail bar from Tom Brown of The Passenger and Hogo fame, is set to open at 1345 S Street NW next month.

Though the bar appeared to have hit some roadblocks after “sneak attack” opposition from the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance in mid-September, it was able to reach a settlement agreement with help from ANC 1B Commissioner John Green, 1B-12, last week.

“We reached an equitable agreement that was able to satisfy all parties before the roll-call,” Brown said by e-mail this morning. “Commissioner John Green was instrumental in the negotiations and we are happy to be moving forward!”

Brown added that he hopes to start slinging cocktails by early November.

A sample menu obtained by Borderstan in August shows the bar’s menu may include Manhattans made with barrel-aged vermouth and Canadian rye whiskey; vesper cocktails made with potato vodka, gin and two types of aperitif wines; and a $55 spin on a French 75 made with vintage champagne, aged rye whiskey, lemon and honey.

by Borderstan.com April 18, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"Moratorium"

ANC 2B/Dupont held an additional listening session on 14th and U liquor license moratorium on April 17. (David McAuley)

The liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont held an additional listening session on the proposed 14th and U liquor license moratorium yesterday evening, April 17. About 20 people attended.

If you subtract ANC Commissioners, citizen members of ANC 2B’s liquor licensing affairs committee, members and supporters of moratorium petition originator Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), former commissioners, spouses of commissioners, and Borderstan, the total number of citizens who got listened to was less than eight.

The meeting was co-chaired Commissioners Kevin O’Connor, 2B-02, and Noah Smith, 2B-09. O’Connor is the head of ANC 2B’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Committee, which handles liquor licensing affairs. Smith’s district partly falls inside the proposed moratorium zone.

At its May 8 meeting, ANC 2B will decide if it will join three other ANCs in voting against the moratorium petition.

Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance Presentation

  • The SDCA was given a chance to lay out its case once more. Joan Sterling, SDCA president, repeated her contention, made at the March 20 town-hall-style listening session on the moratorium and elsewhere, that DC law has changed in regards to how many liquor licensees in an area constitutes an “overconcentration.”
  • It was formally 18, Sterling said, and now the law merely says “several.” This interpretation of DC law has been disputed by moratorium opponents.

Anti-Moratorium Voices

  • One of the citizens who was listened to confessed that he no longer lives in ANC 2B. He has moved from ANC 2B to the corner of 14th and Belmont, in ANC 1B. “When a moratorium happens, here’s what happens. Fifty to 250 thousand dollars goes into the pockets of current liquor licensees,” he said. He called instituting a liquor license moratorium “rewarding bad behavior. To legislate this is to me really unhealthy. It’s not the way a free society should be doing these things,” he said.
  • An ANC 2B resident from the 1800 block of Corcoran Street spoke against the moratorium. “A moratorium is too drastic a step to take,” he said. “It doesn’t make a distinction between good and bad players.”
  • Later, another man, identifying himself as a 12-year resident, also recommended that ANC 2B vote against the moratorium. Speaking about the two other liquor license moratoriums now in place in the Dupont Circle area, he said: “The moratoriums have been a factor in displacing the gay community.”

Not the Tool to Fight Crime, Noise

  • Later, speaking about the crime and noise associated with a concentration of taverns and restaurants, Smith said: “A moratorium is not the tool to fix these problems.” He then asked, “What will happen the day after the moratorium?”
  • SDCA Secretary Elwyn Ferris replied, “I don’t know if it will alleviate the problem, but it will not aggravate the situation.”

Pro-Moratorium Voices

  • A woman with a baby said that neighboring ANC 1B was at fault. “I’m totally for the moratorium. ANC 1B is very dysfunctional, not like [ANC2B] Dupont Circle. There is only one tool left to put a break on what is going on. There are lot of new families on the U Street corridor who have the same opinion as myself.”
  • A former ANC 2B vommissioner said about the moratorium: “It’s a safety net thing. It can just be there and not be a force for good or bad. A moratorium is protective of individual rights.”
  • Another former commissioner said: “People who are affected by noise need our protection. This is a tool whose time has come.”

Everyone Agrees: Enforcement is a Problem

  • Partisans of both sides seemed to agree that troubles getting effective law enforcement on existing rules is a big part of the problem.
  • One person complained that, when there is a concentration of liquor licensees near one another, police will not act on noise complaints because they say that they cannot determine who is the offending party.
  • There was a discussion of another example of ineffective law enforcement, concerning the rules governing the Uptown Arts-Mixed Use (ARTS) Overlay District, which say that more than 50 percent of the frontage in any block in the U Street area cannot be liquor licensees.
  • Enforcing these rules requires coordinated action between multiple DC agencies. This does not occur frequently. (See 14th & U: Approval for More Bars, Restaurants Expected.)

Next Steps

O’Connor closed the meeting by saying there would be no vote that evening. He said that he might try to convene a liquor licensing affairs committee meeting before May 8. This is the date of the meeting when ANC 2B will decide if it will join three other ANCs in voting against the moratorium petition.

Other ANC 2B commissioners in attendance were Stephanie Maltz, 2B-03; Kishan Putta, 2B-04; Abigail Nichols, 2B-05; and Chair Will Stephens, 2B-08.

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by Borderstan.com April 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm 5 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

ANC 1B Also says no to 14 and U Streets moratorium. (David McAuley)

ANC 1B joins ANCs 6E and 2F in opposing the proposed moratorium for the 14th and U area. (David McAuley)

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B officially joined the ranks of the opposition to the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium last night, April 4. The vote was 10-0. Commissioners Juan Lopez, 1B-07, and E. Gail Anderson Holness, 1B-11, were absent and did not vote. ANC 1B includes the U Street area.

ANC 1B is now the third ANC to vote against the moratorium. It joins ANC 6E, which voted in February, and ANC 2F, which unanimously condemned the moratorium in a strongly worded resolution the previous evening, April 3. The remaining ANC within the borders of the proposed moratorium, ANC 2B, plans to vote at its May 8 monthly meeting.

ANC 1B Commissioner Jeremy Leffler, 1B-02, placed the resolution to oppose the moratorium in front of the full ANC. Leffler is the chair of ANC 1B’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Committee. He told the commission that the text of the resolution was very similar to ANC 2F’s resolution of the previous evening.

The vote came about two-thirds of the way through a marathon four-hour meeting. It was attended by more than 60 members of the public, most of whom were especially interested in the outcome of the moratorium vote.

"moratorium"

SDCA’s proposed liquor license moratorium zone for 14th and U NW area.

Attempts to Delay Vote

The resolution weathered two attempts to delay the vote. This first was by Joan Sterling, President of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), during her presentation in support of the petition.

The SDCA has been the driving force behind the petition and the only group remaining with standing to officially present it to DC’s ABC Board at its May 22 hearing.

“I’m surprised we’re taking a vote today — there’s still time,” Sterling said.

The second attempt to delay the vote was by Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso, 1B-05. During the commission debate on the resolution, Reinoso proposed a motion to table the vote until the next ANC1B meeting in May. The motion died when there was no second from the commission.

Norman Questions SDCA’s Approach

After Sterling presented to the committee, Chair Tony Norman, 1B-10, questioned Sterling about the SDCA’s approach.

“Before you filed this, why didn’t you approach the commissioners?” Norman asked. “It would have been respectful to approach us before.”

Sterling said she was waiting for the petition to be accepted by the ABC Board.

“We don’t have to wait for acceptance from a board for neighbors to talk to each other,” Norman replied.

Local Opposition Cited

In a presentation about the March 20 townhall-style listening session on the moratorium, Commissioner Leffler noted that 135 people had signed in for the session. Of the listening-session speakers who identified themselves as 1B residents, he said 81 percent were opposed. In addition, Leffler said he had a petition signed by 87 1B residents against the moratorium. Finally, Leffler entered the online anti-moratorium petition from change.org into the record. This petition contained more than 1,200 signatures, Leffler said.

Presentation on Possible Zoning Law Changes

The vote on the moratorium was only a small part of ANC 1B’s marathon session. The evening started out with a presentation from the DC Office of Planning. This office is spearheading a major rewrite of DC zoning laws citywide. At the urging of ANC 1B Chair Norman, Deputy Director Joel Lawson’s presentation took only a fraction of the time that his boss, Director Harriet Tregoning, used to cover the same material at the previous evening’s ANC 2F meeting.

“This is the fastest I’ve ever given this presentation,” Lawson said.

Lawson noted two potential impacts of the zoning rewrite on the U Street area. The first was the creation of transit zones along the major thoroughfares of the district, including the Georgia Avenue, Florida Avenue, U Street and 14th Street corridors. New buildings in these zones would no longer be required to include parking spaces in their design and construction.

The second potential impact may be new rules facilitating the opening of corner stores in residential neighborhoods. Lawson mentioned the intersections of 13th and 11th Streets and Sherman Avenue with Harvard, Fairmont, Euclid and Clifton Streets as possible places that might benefit from this change in zoning rules.

Compass Rose Settlement Agreement Approved

Well into its third hour, ANC 1B heard presentations by aspiring liquor licensees in search of ANC endorsement. ANC 1B unanimously approved the settlement agreement for Compass Rose. This agreement was the subject of a lengthy discussion at the previous meeting of ANC1B’s ABC committee on April 2.

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by Borderstan.com April 4, 2013 at 8:00 am 3 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"Compass Rose"

Rose Previte addresses the ANC 1B committee on Tuesday. (David McAuley)

Compass Rose, a restaurant aiming to operate at 1346 T Street NW, took an important step toward a liquor license on Tuesday evening, April 2. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B‘s alcohol licensing affairs committee voted 10 to 4 to recommend a committee-drafted settlement agreement with Compass Rose to the full ANC, which serves the U Street area.

An agreement approved by the full ANC would help Compass Rose to plead its case for a liquor license before DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. There was one abstention and one committee member absent.

ANC 1B’s next meeting will be tonight, Thursday, April 4, on the second floor of the Reeves Center, 2000 14th Street NW.

“As we all know, it’s renewal season,” said ABC Committee chair Jeremy Leffler, ANC 1B-02, at the beginning of the meeting. In addition to the Compass Rose settlement agreement, the committee had eight “must to discuss” applications for renewals of liquor licenses on its agenda.

Previte said some of the protesters told her they didn’t want Compass Rose to open, and had attempted to micromanage the business, including dictating what was to be on the menu.

However, owing to the long and contentious nature of the Compass Rose debate, the committee had only considered three before the caretaker of the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW) said it was 9 p.m. and the building had to close. Leffler had to ask the other committee members to continue the meeting on the sidewalk outside the building.

The second speaker, SDCA Secretary Elwyn Ferris, said the main objection was concerning establishment’s operating hours. “We conceded the maximum hours, but we want them in the agreement,” Ferris said.

The Settlement Agreement

“I skipped work today to go over this line by line,” said committee member Zahra Jilani, ANC 1B-12, referring to the draft settlement agreement she presented to the committee. Jilani listed the details included in the agreement in an attempt to mollify the protesters, including:

  • Clean-up must be completed one hour after closing
  • No handbills
  • Interior soundproofing (“noise is one full page” of the agreement)
  • Applicant must consult a noise consultant
  • A full menu must be served until midnight
  • The installation of surveillance cameras

“We’re desperately trying to be a wonderful part of the community,” said Rose Previte, aspiring co-operator of Compass Rose with her husband, David Greene, at the start of the presentation. Previte said some of the protesters told her they didn’t want Compass Rose to open, and had attempted to micromanage the business, including dictating what was to be on the menu. Previte also mentioned the online petition in support of the liquor license launched at change.org, which has 250 signatures.

“We are residents as well as business owners,” said Previte. Greene later added that the couple plans to live over the business and raise their children there.

There were three groups protesting the application: the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), a group of 14 residents, and the owner of the neighboring property. The owner of the neighboring property, which contains the Cafe Saint Ex, did not appear at the meeting, so this protest was not considered.

Protesters Address Committee

The two remaining groups had an opportunity to present to the committee.

“I understand I don’t have the right to choose my neighbors,” said Erling Bailey, representing the group of 14 residents. “A place that sells alcohol affects our quality of life.” Bailey also said he was protesting the license because, during negotiations, the scope of the business changed: the proprietors had first claimed the business was going to be a restaurant, and then said it was a tavern.

The second speaker, SDCA Secretary Elwyn Ferris, said the main objection was concerning establishment’s operating hours. “We conceded the maximum hours, but we want them in the agreement,” Ferris said.

After much discussion, the crux of the problem seemed to be: if the operating hours are stated in the agreement, then licensees must seek written permission every time there is a special reason to keep their establishment open for a longer period, e.g., daylight savings time or Inauguration Day. If the hours are merely those stated by DC law, no additional written permission is necessary if the DC government agrees to extend operating hours for a special occasion. Neither side was willing to budge on this issue.

In the end, the agreement as written by Jilani was passed by the committee with small modifications. A motion by SDCA President Joan Sterling to amend the agreement to specifically state the hours of operations was rejected.

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by Borderstan.com April 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm 1 Comment

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"moratorium"

A liquor license moratorium has been proposed for the 14th and U area. (Luis Gomez Photos)

DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board will hold a hearing on the proposed 14th and U liquor license moratorium at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, May 22, at the Reeves Municipal Building. The Reeves Building is at the northwest corner of 14th and U Streets NW. The hearing will take place in the Board Hearing Room, 4th Floor South.

The official announcement was published on March 29 in the DC Register, Volume 60, Number 14. A copy of the official announcement is available on Borderstan. Public comment in person or in writing is solicited.

Details of Announcement

Details from the announcement:

“Individuals and representatives of organizations who wish to testify [in person] should contact Assistant Attorney General Jon Berman at 202-442-4448 or by e-mail at [email protected] by Friday, May 17, 2013. E-mail contacts should include the full name, title, and affiliation, if applicable, of the person(s) testifying. Testimony may be limited to five (5) minutes in order to permit each person an opportunity to be heard. Witnesses should bring seven (7) copies of their written testimony to the hearing.

“If you are unable to testify and wish to comment, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements must be submitted to the Office of the General Counsel, Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, 2000 14th Street NW, Suite 400 South, Washington, D.C. 20009, no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, May 24, 2013.”

The announcement erroneously implies that there are two petitioners for the moratorium, the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and the Residential Action Coalition. The SDCA was the only petitioner granted standing to plead the case for a liquor license moratorium before the ABC Board.

Assistant Attorney General Berman said at a March 20 listening session about the moratorium that the Residential Action Coalition had not qualified for standing and would no longer be considered a petitioner at future hearings.

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by Borderstan.com March 21, 2013 at 6:39 am 12 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

Lining up to testify at listening session. (David McAuley)

Neighbors line up to testify at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting on the proposed liquor license moratorium for the 14th and U corridor. (David McAuley)

Sentiment ran almost 6 to 1 against the proposed 14th and U Streets liquor license moratorium at last night’s town hall style listening session.  Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) 1B (U Street),  2B/Dupont and 2F/Logan all sent members to attend the meeting at the basketball court of the Thurgood Marshall Center on 12th Street NW to hear what the public had to say.

About 160 people attended the event, filling every chair, then sitting and standing against the walls. My final count was 47 people testifying against, 8 for and 3 neutral. Of the 47 people testifying against, only two identified themselves as not living in or near the moratorium district. On Twitter, other witnesses put the count at 48 against, 8 for; 46 against, 9 for; and 41 against, 7 for.

ANC chairs in attendance were Tony Norman (1B-10) and Matt Raymond (2F-07). All three commissions sent the chairs of their respective alcohol licensing affairs committees: John Fanning (2F-04), Jeremy Leffler (1B-02) and Kevin O’Connor (2B-02). At least 10 other commissioners from across the three ANCs attended as well.

There are currently five liquor license moratorium zones in DC: Georgetown, Glover Park, Adams Morgan, Dupont West (21st and P NW) and Dupont East (17th Street NW). The 17th Street liquor license moratorium is due to expire in September 2013.

Opening Statements

Leffler called the meeting to order at 7 pm and Commissioner Noah Smith (2B-09) explained the meeting guidelines. The original plan was for each speaker to have two minutes to address the listening commissioners, but due to the overwhelming response, the time was cut back to 90 seconds. As a result, the meeting finished at planned 9 pm time.

Before citizen testimony period, the attendees heard remarks by Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Berman of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), Sgt. Iris Beistline of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and Joan Sterling, president of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), the group petitioning for the liquor license moratorium. SDCA membership is limited to residents living between 12th and 15th Streets and S and U Streets NW.

  • ABRA had found that SDCA satisfied the minimum requirement for filing the moratorium petition, Berman said. He also said that the other group who signed the petition, the Residential Action Coalition, had not qualified for standing before ABRA, and would no longer be considered a petitioner. However, the SDCA may continue the petitioning process before the ABC Board, which will next consider the matter on May 22.
  • In answer to audience questions, Berman said that the normal term for moratoriums was five years, but could be renewed. He then said that, once enacted, no liquor license moratorium had ever been dissolved.
  • Beistline said the MPD could not supply relevant crime statistics because there were none available. A new computer system was being put in place, she explained, and some statistics were still inaccurate.
  • Sterling then pleaded the SDCA’s case for the moratorium. She noted the difficulty in getting the DC government to enforce the law concerning the percentage of street frontage that can be given to liquor licensees on any block. (The Uptown Arts District Overlay limits the square footage of ground-floor storefronts serving food/drink on each block to 50% of all square footage facing the street on that block. The percentage was increased to 50% from 25% in 2010.)
  • Sterling also noted that there are now 16,000 combined seats in the establishments of the liquor licensees in the zone. She said that, since the zone had well over 18 liquor licensees, it met ABRA’s definition of an “overconcentration” of licensees. “Moratoriums are temporary,” Sterling added.

Testimony from Attendees

After Sterling’s statement, the floor was turned over to the public. “Let’s keep this civil,” Leffler reminded. People lined up in an orderly manner to speak. Nearly every person stated his or her name and address or ANC district. Here is a selection of comments:

  • “I oppose the moratorium. I vote and I’ll remember.”
  • “This process draws in thousands and thousands of man-hours. It’s a complete waste of resources. Six people made us come here. It’s time to reform the system.”
  •  “I have been awakened at all hours of the night by music I can literally sing along to.”
  • “I’m strongly opposed. I love the vibrancy. It’s just awesome.”
  • “The moratorium is too blunt an instrument.”
  • “There’s no actual evidence that the moratorium will lead to prosperity.”
  • “A lot of people are saying that there are other solutions. What? Will someone pick up my trash?”
  • “Why stall development in the neighborhood?”
  • “Remember the Georgetown moratorium. It didn’t fix the noise, the parking, the litter.”
  • “A moratorium is not right. Hold each bar and restaurant responsible.”
  • “It’s anti-small business, anti-competition. I’m inalterably opposed.”
  • “It’s good to see people getting involved.”
  • “It’s kind of a joke that we’re here tonight.”
  • “I like vibrancy.”
  • “My fear is stagnation in the community,” said a man identified on Twitter as the owner of DC9 nightclub. He went on to say that retail space should be encouraged, ways should be found for rents to be lower, there should be tax relief, and ABRA should be convinced to work on “bad apple” liquor licensees.
  • The only sign of incivility occurred toward the end when one man, a moratorium supporter, decided to take aim at the newly opened Matchox restaurant at 14th and T NW. He disparaged the restaurant and its food, much to the surprise of other attendees.

Next Steps

“That was fantastic,” Jeremy Leffler said after the final testimony. “I’m impressed by the turnout, passion and research.” To conclude the meeting, each ANC briefly outlined their next steps.

  • Leffler said that ANC1B’s liquor license affairs committee would meet tonight, March 21, at the Thurgood Marshall Center. A vote on the proposed moratorium is on the agenda. The committee’s recommendation would then be considered when ANC1B has its regular monthly meeting on April 4 at the Reeves Center.
  • Raymond said that ANC2F would have its regular monthly meeting on April 3 and a vote on the moratorium would be on the agenda.
  • O’Connor said that ANC2B would consider the issue on its May 8 meeting, before which he hoped to have one or two more listening sessions.
One after the other neighbors lined up. (David McAuley)

Attendees lined up to speak at Wednesday night’s town hall. (David McAuley)

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by Borderstan.com March 18, 2013 at 8:59 am 7 Comments

"Fainting Goat"

Future site of the Fainting Goat at 1330 U Street NW. It was home to Urban Essentials before the store moved to 14th and Rhode Island NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

The plight of the Fainting Goat Tavern has taken a strange turn. An official document of protest by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B seems to have vanished before reaching its destination, the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA).

Unless the document suddenly turns up, the ANC 1B’s decision rejecting the Fainting Goat’s settlement agreement would not be recognized, because the deadline for filing such documents has now passed. This may make it easier for the Fainting Goat to argue before ABRA in favor of granting a liquor license. ANC 1B covers the U Street area.

March 7 Meeting

The Fainting Goat’s troubles began on March 7. That evening, ANC 1B voted 5 to 2, with two abstentions, against the settlement agreement with the District Pub Group, LLC, to operate the Fainting Goat Tavern at 1330 U Street, the former site of Urban Essentials. The decision was made after an animated discussion with the community and conflicting recollections of previous ANC committee actions. This decision then needed to be officially communicated to ABRA.

Meanwhile, a petition in support of the Fainting Goat appeared on change.org on March 14.

Joan Sterling, president of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), said on March 14 that ANC 1B Alcoholic Beverage Committee Chair Jeremy Leffler (District 02) wrote her in an email that the protest documents had been filed with ABRA.

Statement from ABRA

ABRA permit. (Luis Gomez Photos)

ABRA Liquor License application. (Luis Gomez Photos)

“No resolution from ANC 1B has been received by ABRA protesting this application,” wrote William Hager, ABRA Public Information Officer, in an email, also on March 14.

Borderstan’s multiple email requests to several commissioners for copies of ANC 1B’s protest documents and evidence that they were presented in a timely manner were not answered.

Information on the ABRA web site says that protests against liquor licenses can be faxed or email. All email protests must be sent as a PDF document and signed. These two methods are the only ways to officially file a protest with ABRA.

Still, it is far from clear sailing for The Fainting Goat’s liquor license application. Two community groups correctly filed their protests before deadline. ABRA’s William Hager identified the two groups. One is the SDCA, which is the spearhead of a U Street liquor license moratorium campaign. The second is a group of 14 residents, most of whom live on Wallach Place NW. The ABRA web site says that any “[g]roup of five or more property owners sharing common ground” may file a protest.

Next Step for Fainting Goat

The next step for the Fainting Goat will be an ABRA Roll Call Hearing on March 25. It will be held at 10 am on the fourth floor of the Reeves Center at 2000 14th Street NW. ABRA’s Hagar told Borderstan that the purpose of the Roll Call Hearings is only to identify the parties that have standing as protestants in this matter. The substance of each protest will not be discussed. A separate hearing is scheduled for May 15 to discuss the substance of the protests.

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by Borderstan.com March 18, 2013 at 8:00 am 2 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

"Moratorium"

SDCA’s Guy Podgornik (standing) presents to ANC 2F/Logan on March 14. (David McAuley)

The Shaw Dupont Citizens Association (SDCA) took its case for the controversial U Street Liquor License Moratorium to the monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F on Thursday evening, March 14. They got a polite but frosty reception. ANC2F covers the Logan Circle area.

The SDCA made a presentation similar to the one they made at last month’s meeting of the subcommittee for liquor license matters of neighboring ANC1B. Guy Podgornik, SDCA treasurer, made the presentation to ANC2F.

He said the legal definition in DC of “overconcentration” in regards to liquor licensees is now 18, but there are about 120 licensed establishments in the proposed moratorium zone. This number is up from the 107 establishments operating when the petition was filed, Podgornik said.

"Moratorium"

Map of proposed liquor license area. The area within the heavy black lines is Ward 1. (David McAuley)

Podgornik added that DC government timeline requirements meant DC’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) would not have public hearings on the matter before June at the earliest. After the hearings, ABRA will have the authority to accept the petition, reject the petition, change the radius of the zone, or change the shape of the zone entirely.

The ABRA hearings should not be confused with the town-hall style listening session about the liquor license moratorium to be held jointly by ANCs 1B, 2B and 2F this Wednesday, March 20, at 7 pm, at the Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street NW.

After Podgornik’s presentation, ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond and other commissioners asked questions and made statements that made clear their displeasure with the proposal. Raymond took exception with some facts that appeared in the SDCA’s petition filing.

The proposal said certain blocks in the moratorium area had more than 50 percent of their street frontage taken up by alcohol licensees. This is a violation of the law. This law was going unenforced, Podgornik said, with up to 90 percent frontage in some blocks of ANC1B. Raymond responded that this was not the case in ANC2F.

“I have a lot of problems with this,” Raymond said. He added: “I want to reserve judgment until after the town hall.”

Move the Zone North?

ANC2F ABRA Committee Chair John Fanning asked if it were possible to move the moratorium zone north so no part of it fell in ANC2F. Podgornik explained the law limited petitioners to asking for circular zones either 600, 1,200 or 1,800 feet in radius; no other shapes or sizes were possible. Furthermore, by law the center point of a petition’s circle must fall on the property of a current liquor licensee. Moving the center north would cause it to fall in the middle of a residential neighborhood with no liquor licensees.

“Your moratorium, it’s an intrusion into this neighborhood,” Fanning said. “We want to keep the vibrancy going.”

Pride Parade

At the beginning of the meeting, ANC2F also heard a short presentation from Capital Pride. The group asked for support for the upcoming Capital Pride Parade. The parade will occur on Saturday, June 8, starting at 4:30 pm.

It will follow a slightly different route through 2F this year, turning north at the corner of 14th and P Streets NW, instead of south as previously. It is planned that 14th Street will be closed up to U Street for the parade. The board voted to endorse the request for appropriate street closures.

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by Borderstan.com March 8, 2013 at 8:00 am 16 Comments

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.

The District Pub Group, LLC, aspiring proprietors of the Fainting Goat Tavern at 1330 U Street NW, got caught in the cross fire at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B meeting last night, March 7. Most of the U Street corridor is in 1B. The tavern site is the former Urban Essentials space, which is now on 14th Street NW.

"ANC 1B"

Seated at table: ANC 1B commissioners at the March 7 meeting at the Reeves Center. (David McAuley)

After a session of conflicting recollections of past committee meetings and votes, ANC 1B voted against accepting the settlement agreement that would have kept the tavern license for the Fainting Goat on track (they were formerly called voluntary agreements). Attorney Michael Fonseca, representing the Fainting Goat, told the meeting that his client had been “kicked to the curb” and “treated very badly.”

Missing Piece of the Puzzle

The vote against accepting the settlement agreement was five to two, with two abstentions. Voting against were Commissioners E. Gail Anderson Holness, ANC 1B-11; Juan Lopez, ANC 1B-07; Marc Morgan, ANC 1B-01; Ricardo Reinoso, ANC 1B-05; and James Turner, ANC 1B-09.

Voting for the agreement were Commissioners Zahira Jilani, ANC 1B-12; and Emily Washington, ANC 1B-08. Abstaining were ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (District 10) and Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed, ANC 1B-3.

The missing piece of the puzzle was absent Commissioner Jeremy Leffler, ANC 1B-02, chair of the ANC 1B Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee. Jilani, speaking on Leffler’s behalf, claimed that the ABC Committee had voted at its February 21 public meeting to recommend accepting the agreement, at least in part.

Pushback from SDCA

Members of the community who were present at the February ABC Committee meeting, led by members of the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA), pushed back, saying that they had been present and no such vote had been taken publicly.

Jilani admitted that she had not been at the meeting and was only repeating what Leffler had told her. Two other members of the public, seemingly unaffiliated with the SDCA, agreed that they had been present at the meeting and no vote had been taken. No one present recalled a vote being taken, although Jilani cited meeting minutes which claim that the motion to accept the agreement with the Fainting Goat had passed.

SDCA has recently been in the public spotlight as the driving force behind the proposed 14th and U Street liquor license moratorium. Even before last night’s ANC meeting, the SDCA had planned to protest Fainting Goat liquor license application, with a view of obtaining a settlement agreement more to their liking.

In spite of this, Fainting Goat management and their attorney had an amiable February 21 public meeting with SDCA, where the two parties agreed to disagree. At that time, SDCA alcohol licensing committee chair Elwyn Ferris even praised Fonseca’s work cooperating with the committee.

In the end, the Fainting Goat got caught in a feud not of their making, fueled by a combination of citizen mistrust and sloppy government. Leffler was absent, and the ANC1B commissioners present had not been adequately briefed. SDCA members told ANC 1B that the public still had until March 11 to file protests with the DC government about the application, so an ANC vote now would be premature. Holness Anderson said that she could not vote to approve the agreement because it must “go to the community first.”

Settlement Agreements

Settlement agreements are normally negotiated between liquor-serving establishments and interested members of the community. They cover topics such as hours of operation, time of trash pickup, sidewalk cafés, valet parking, vermin control, among others. You can download a model settlement agreement. They were called voluntary agreements, or V.A.s prior to the passage of new alcoholic regulation legislation by the DC Council and mayor, which went into effect in January.

There are signs that ANC 1B may try to improve its communication with public. At the meeting’s end, it was announced that ANC1B had just rolled out a new website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. The general email address for ANC 1B is 1b[AT]anc.dc.gov. It was pledged that meeting announcements and other relevant information would be posted in these places in the future.

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by Borderstan.com February 22, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com

"ANC"

ANC 2F discusses the proposed liquor moratorium on Wednesday night. (David McAuley)

In two separate public meetings Wednesday night, February 20, the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) Committees of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) 2F and 1B discussed next steps on the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium. ANC 2F covers the Logan Circle area while ANC 1B includes a large bulk of the U Street area.

The area of the proposed moratorium would fall in both districts, as well as neighboring districts 2B and 6E.

At the ANC 2F meeting, ABRA Committee Member Christopher Dyer proposed and later withdrew a motion opposing the liquor license moratorium. In between the proposal and the withdrawal, committee members discussed various issues surrounding the moratorium and listened to opinions from members of the public.

Some committee members expressed opposition to the moratorium; others said that they wanted more public input first. ABRA Committee Member Kate Gordon said that she was against Dyer’s motion “because I want to hear what people have to say.”

Committee Member Matt Raymond (also Commissioner for ANC2 F-07 and chair of ANC 2F) noted that a joint meeting of all effected ANCs, which had been first proposed by ANC2F, was tentatively scheduled for March 20. The committee hoped that “maybe” there would be an opportunity to meet again after the proposed joint ANC meeting in March, at which time the committee could discuss and vote on a recommendation to the ANC as a whole.

Raymond also told the committee that Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance President Joan E. Sterling had to decline an invitation to speak at the ANC 2F committee, due to the conflicting ANC 1B meeting. When the floor was opened to comments, one other member of the public, a resident of ANC 6E, spoke in favor of the moratorium. A representative of the Logan Circle Community Association spoke against it.

At the same time, reports on Twitter indicated that ANC1B’s ABRA Committee was hearing testimony on the moratorium. ANC 2B Commissioner Kevin O’Connor tweeted from the meeting that a representative of the DC government did a “good presentation” about moratorium process and procedure.

Later, O’Connor tweeted that the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance presented their petition to the committee. However, no action or vote was taken by ANC1B’s ABRA Committee. O’Connor described the meeting as “a listening session.”

O’Connor is also the chairman of the ABRA Committee for neighboring ANC 2B.

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by Borderstan.com January 22, 2013 at 8:00 am 25 Comments

"moratorium"

Click for a larger image: The proposed 14th and U liquor license moratorium zone.

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at tom[AT]borderstan.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

Two citizen groups have filed a petition with the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to establish a liquor license moratorium zone for the 14th and U Street NW corridor.

The Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and the Residential Action Coalition (RAC) request that a circular zone be established that extends 1,800 feet (about 1/3 of a mile) from 1211 U Street NW — the location of Ben’s Next Door — and adjacent to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant. (See New Citizens’ Organization Seeks Different Path for 14th U and Online Petition Opposing Liquor License Moratorium Draws Support.)

Borderstan was unable to find a website or Facebook page for RAC — only a listing for the organization with a T Street address. The signer for RAC on the petition letter was Kathryn A. Eckles while SDCA President Joan Sterling was the other signatory.

The proposed zone would be a circle, and extend as far as Clifton Street NW to the north, R Street to the south and have 8th and 15th streets as the east and west boundaries, respectively.

The zone includes blocks in Wards 1, 2 and 6 and portions of all four Borderstan area Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and four Metropolitan Police Service Areas (PSAs). The four ANCs impacted are 2B (Dupont Circle), 2F (Logan Circle), 1B (which includes U Street and Columbia Heights) and a small section of 6E (Shaw).

The filing by SDCA and RAC cites 107 liquor licences in the proposed zone, with another twelve in the regulatory pipeline or planning stages (see the full list submitted with the filing). The petitioners argue that the density of licenses in the area have “imposed extremely stressful conditions” on residents; specifically noise, crime and parking problems. The second factor is that growth of licenses in other areas of the city — where new businesses may be needed — has been stunted. SDCA unanimously voted to endorse a moratorium at their August 2012 meeting.

Once ABRA’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board determines that the petition meets all the criteria for consideration under DC Law, the Board will hold a public hearing to review the petition. In addition to public testimony for or against the petition, the Board will request comment from affected ANCs and Councilmembers, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Planning, among others. The DC Council would also have to approve the moratorium.

The ABC Board has several options after hearing testimony and comments. Grant or deny the request in its entirety. Grant in part by enlarging or decreasing the size of the zone, or limiting the moratorium to one class of liquor license. There are currently five liquor license moratorium zones within DC: Georgetown, Glover Park, Adams Morgan, Dupont West and Dupont East.

SDCA was founded in 2012 and includes blocks near the center of the moratorium zone. RAC was founded in 1981 and serves residents in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, which would include about three blocks at the southwestern edge of the proposed moratorium zone.

The filing of the moratorium petition by SDCA and RAC comes just days after Mayor Vincent Gray officially enacted major changes to laws and regulations pertaining to alcohol sales. Among the changes in the law is a provision that would dismiss any liquor license protest by a group of five or more residents if an applicant reaches an agreement with their ANC.

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by Borderstan.com September 25, 2012 at 9:00 am 1,107 1 Comment

"ANC 1B"

ANC 1B includes most of the U Street corridor. 1B-12 is in the southwest corner. (ANC 1B website, with boundaries in effect for the 2012 election.)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email at Tom[AT]borderstan.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomonswann.

Candidates in the four-way race for Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B’s Single Member District (SMD) 1B-12 gathered for a forum last week to introduce themselves and give attendees a chance to ask questions. The forum was sponsored by the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association. (See New Citizens’ Organization Seeks Different Path for 14th and U about SDCA).

The four candidates are Erling Bailey, John Green, Zahra Jilani and Dan Wittels. Organizers also invited Noah Smith, the candidate from neighboring SMD 2B-09 (Dupont) which falls into the boundaries of the SDCA, and is running unopposed for the seat being vacated by 10-year incumbent Ramon Estrada.

New SMD

SMD 1B-12 is a new, additional district for ANC 1B and includes blocks from 12th Street NW to 14th Street and from S to V Streets, plus a panhandle composed of the blocks on the north side of U and south of V Street from 14th to New Hampshire Avenue. Due to a large growth in population in the U Street corridor, ANC 1B-02 was essentially split into two parts to create the new SMD 12. Incumbent Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling is not seeking a full term in ANC 1B-02.

The SMD is home to some high-profile restaurants and landmarks including Ben’s Chili Bowl, the Black Cat, Busboys & Poets, Cafe Saint-Ex and the Lincoln Theater. The area also includes two large residential development; a apartment building currently under construction at 14th and Wallach Place, NW and a proposed apartment at 13th and U on the site of the Rite Aid drugstore.

Forum Topics

Doug Johnson, an SDCA Board Member, moderated the evening and had three pre-arranged questions for the candidates. At the start of the forum Johnson pointed out that candidate Dan Wittels is also a Board Member of the SDCA, but was removed from planning for the forum. Johnson also allowed attendees to ask questions of the candidates.

Questions during the evening covered topics such as experience with DC agencies, communication strategies and views on business development. Responses to questions on business development brought up the topic of the liquor licences and diversity of commerce in the area and highlighted the differing viewpoints of the candidates. The SMD includes the much discussed 14th and Wallach residential building and the JBG hotel-turned-apartment project on the Rite-Aid site at 13th and U Streets, NW.

Borderstan will be sending the candidates additional questions which will be published in the weeks leading up to the election.

The general election is Tuesday, November 6. Check with the DC Board of Election and Ethics for information on registering to vote and voting locations.

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by Borderstan.com September 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm 3 Comments

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"ANC 1B"

Click for  a larger map: 1B includes most of the U Street corridor. (ANC 1B website, with boundaries in effect for the 2012 election.)

With just eight weeks until the November 6 ANC election, the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) will host a Candidate Forum on Thursday, September 20, for the four candidates running for ANC1B’s newest single member district, 1B-12.

The Forum will start at 7 pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW). Candidates Erling Bailey, John Green, Zahra Jilani (see Borderstan’s candidate profiles) and Dan Wittels will attend and introduce themselves and their ideas to the community. In addition, attendees will be able to ask the candidates questions and provide input to the candidates.

Noah Smith (the ANC 2B-09 candidate whose district falls within the SDCA boundaries) will also address the public to introduce himself, his agenda and take any questions from attendees.

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by Borderstan.com May 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,416 22 Comments

"Borderstan"

The intersection of 14th and U Streets NW. What does the future hold for one of the city's most desirable locations? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Matty Rhoades. You can email him at matty[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstan first learned earlier this spring that a new neighborhood organization was being formed, one whose mission was to change the course of the rapid pace of development along the 14th and U corridor — including a possible push for a liquor license moratorium. (For another view, see Online Petition Opposing Liquor License Moratorium Draws Support.) Moreover, changes are being considered to DC’s zoning laws as recently noted in the City Paper’s Housing Complex blog.

The new Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) held its first meeting May 21. The boundaries for membership in SDCA are from 12th to 15th Streets and from S to U Streets NW. Joan Sterling is president of the board of directors and some of the other names on the board are familiar to people who follow neighborhood politics and community organizations — Elwyn Ferris (partner of ANC 2B09 Commissioner Ramon Estrada) is secretary, and Doug Johnson and Craig Brownstein of U Street Dirt are on the board of directors.

The entire 14th and U corridor has been undergoing rapid change in the past decade, with numerous residential-retail complexes still under construction, from S Street past Florida Avenue NW; the strip of 14th below S Street saw the first wave of new construction on empty lots earlier in the decade. One such complex just getting underway is the Lous at 14th and U Streets NW (see Plans Unveiled for the Louis at 14th/U; Will Remake Famous Corner.) Another project, spanning 14th from S to Swann Streets is expected to be completed this fall. Demolition work will soon begin on the project at the southeast corner of 14th and Wallach NW. And there are more projects under construction or on the drawing board (13th and U NW, for example).

Not surprisingly, not everyone in the area views the changes — or the trajectory of the development — in quite the same way.

SDCA Organization’s Message Points

The membership application for SDCA is quite blunt in terms of the message points it drives home to potential members, with the following Q&A on the membership applicaton:

Q: Finding it increasingly difficult to park?
A: Local developers are being granted variances from the required parking regulations!

Q: Is late night noise and disturbance increasing?
A: New establishments are requesting operating hours till 4 and 5 AM!

Q: Are you concerned about the drastic increase in street crime?
A: Three stabbings of local restaurant patrons in the past year!

Q:  Did you know that new development almost caused us the permanent loss of our Post Office.
A: A vocal group of citizens (our members, and our neighbors, just like you) fought it, and saved it!

Q: Are you aware that new legislation could strip away the legal standing residents have in alcohol licensing?
A: The right to negotiate a reasonable Voluntary Agreement may be permanently eliminated!

Interview with SDCA President

Borderstan asked SDCA President Joan Sterling about the new organization, its priorities — and why its members felt the need to form the organization instead of working through three neighborhood organizations in or near the 14th and U corridor.

Borderstan: What is your organization’s top priority as of now?

Sterling: Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) views this neighborhood as a residential community, a historic treasure, an educational center, and a vital component of the District of Columbia’s retail and tourism economy. The association seeks to maintain a unique mix of missions for the community, while seeing that the views and interests of residents and homeowners are well represented in the neighborhood’s continuing evolution. DSCA’s mission is to preserve the historic character, quality of life, and aesthetic values of this area with a particular eye toward protecting the interests of the neighborhood’s residents and homeowners. We all welcome the new businesses and the exciting development. At the same time we also have some concerns about the impact of that growth on the quality of life in the neighborhood.

As a newly incorporated organization we are very busy with membership and organizing our committees in a way that will reflect the varied interests of the members. We have had a lot of feedback regarding things such as parking, new development, new retail, improved daytime activity in the neighborhood, and concerns related to the significant late night activity that borders the residential areas.

Borderstan: Are you actively pushing the DC Government for a liquor license moratorium in the 14th and U area?

Sterling: That is one of the options that the members have discussed as a possibility to get a little ‘breathing space’ while trying to find a way to improve the implementation of the ARTS Overlay and Comprehensive Plan for the neighborhood. We hope to work with both Councilmember Graham [D-Ward 1] and Councilmember Evans [D-Ward 2], along with the Office of Planning, BZA [Board of Zoning Adjustment], ABRA [Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration], DCRA, DDOT and the other agencies that all have a piece of the puzzle. We are interested in having a vibrant and safe community during both the daytime and the evening hours. (Editor’s note: The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) lists five moratorium actions in DC. The neighborhoods with liquor license moratoriums are Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Glover Park, Dupont West and Dupont East (17th Street NW).

Borderstan: How would you respond to Bryan Martin Firvida’s claim that liquor license moratoriums are ineffective?

Sterling: It’s an interesting position to take considering Mr. Firvida provides no data that supports that opinion – the petition language is long on hyperbole, but short on facts. Existing Moratoria have been renewed which would indicate that, in the areas that have them, the residents are happy with the results. Moratorium zones as defined by ABRA can only be in a radius of 600 feet, 1,200 feet or 1,800 feet. Implying that because online petition signatories are in a particular zip code means that they live in a moratorium zone is far from accurate. It does not correctly reflect the very small sizes of ABRA defined zones compared to the much larger areas covered by zip codes.

Signatures of approximately 600 DC residents is just not reflective of those residents that are directly impacted by the current over-concentration of licenses in this particular small area. We are very interested in all ideas that can actually be implemented to help alleviate the problems that residents are experiencing and are eagerly awaiting Mr. Firvida’s alternate suggestions. We are aware that Mr. Firvida has authored other online petitions such as D.C. Council and the D.C. Taxicab Commission: Make “Red” the standard color for Taxicabs in Washington, D.C.

(Editor’s note: Martin Firvida is a past president of the U Street Neighborhood Association (USNA), elected president four times, 2002 to 2004 and again in 2010. He also served as chair of USNA’s Business Development and ABC Committee and served on the USNA Board of Directors. Martin Firvida also spent four years as a Special Assistant in the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Office of the City Administrator working on neighborhood issues. )

Borderstan: Why did you decided to form a new organization instead of working through existing community associations, such as the U Street Neighborhood Association, the Logan Circle Community Association and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association?

Sterling: We felt that we needed a residents association to address the things that are of interest to our neighborhood. Because the area straddles two different ANCs and two Wards it made sense to start an organization that could represent the neighborhood in a more cohesive way. Both the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and the Logan Circle Community Association represent residents in different areas than SDCA. The residents in those areas are clearly ably represented by their associations and we hope to follow their examples.

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