by Borderstan.com September 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm 1,671 1 Comment

Hank’s Oyster Bar was forced to close half of its patio seating, but with the ABC Board’d decision that will change tonight. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

The Washington City Paper reported today that the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) has ruled that Hank’s Oyster Bar did meet all three criteria for termination of the Voluntary Agreement (VA), which the Dupont Circle restaurant had been operating under since opening in 2005.

The ABC Board had first issued an order in 2010 allowing termination of the VA. That decision was appealed to the DC Court of Appeals by several of the original signatories who protested Hank’s alcohol license. The appellate court ruled in May 2012 that the ABC Board erred in their decision which prompted the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to shut down half of Hank’s outdoor patio, just as the busy outdoor dining season was getting underway.Hank’s has posted on their Facebook page that full patio seating will be available tonight at 1624 Q Street NW.

The most recent order by the ABC Board allows Jamie Leeds, Hank’s chef and owner, to seat the patio dining area to full capacity. The partial closure of the patio prompted an online petition in support of Leeds and came just weeks before hearings on revisions to the District’s alcohol laws. The proposed legislation limits what may be included in a VA and also further defines who has standing to protest a liquor license.

See the related posts below for more information on the Hank’s saga.

by Borderstan.com July 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,070 0

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

"DC bar"

RAMW urging neighbors to attend council meeting . (Luis Gomez Photos)

The DC Council will hold a July 12 hearing on proposed changes to DC liquor licensing. The new bill, scheduled to be introduced at the hearing, is sponsored by Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

Recent licensing battles in the neighborhood, such as those with Hank’s Oyster Bar and All Souls, have caused quite a stir and have produced numerous opinions from local residents. That is why the  local organization is encouraging residents to support new regulations that change the licensing process.

Currently, groups of at least five or more people can protest the licenses of local establishments and cause lengthy delays in the approval process or force businesses to sign restrictive Voluntary Agreements (V.A.’s) in order to move forward. Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, the Metropolitan Police Department and community organizations (with a formal membership vote) can also protest license applications and be parties to V.A.’s.

This new bill, however, changes the proximity requirement for protest groups, requiring protestors to live or own property within a 400-foot radius from the business, instead of the current 600-foot regulation, among other changes.

The hearing starts at 11 am, and will take place in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing must be added to the witness schedule. To do this, contact Malcolm Cameron at mcameron[AT]DCCouncil.com or (202) 724-8191.

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by Borderstan.com June 27, 2012 at 8:00 am 1,262 0

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

"DC bar"

Graham proposes changes to DC liquor laws, but what will be the final result? (Luis Gomez Photos)

Councilmember Jim Graham (D-ward 1) on Tuesday introduced legislation that proposes extensive changes to DC’s Alcoholic Beverage laws. The much anticipated bill includes 43 changes based on the recommendations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control task force that Graham has led since December 2011.

The changes to alcohol laws and regulations is always of particular interest to Borderstan residents since the major commercial corridors of  our neighborhood — U Street, 14th Street, P Street, 17th Street, 9th Street and Connecticut Avenue NW — are home to hundreds of restaurants, liquor stores, nightclubs and bars. (See DC Liquor Licenses by the Numbers: Ward 2, 40% and Ward 1, 16%.)

The sweeping legislation even replaces terms for certain body parts for establishments that offer nude performances. Noteworthy in the bill are some changes to procedures on protesting a license application, what may be included in a voluntary agreement (V.A.) and the establishment of a noise complaint hotline.

The sweeping legislation touches on nearly every aspect of alcohol control currently on the books, even replacing terms for certain body parts for establishments that offer nude performances. Noteworthy in the bill are some changes to procedures on protesting a license application, what may be included in a voluntary agreement (V.A.) and the establishment of a noise complaint hotline.

The proposed amendment to the current code section on who may protest a license application states “A group of no fewer than five (5) residents or property owners of the District residing or owning property within a 400 foot radius of the Applicant’s establishment.” Borderstan recently conducted a reader poll on the number of signatories required to protest a liquor license application (see Poll: Most Readers Say 5 People Not Enough to Protest Liquor Licenses).

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for is bill on Thursday, July 12 at 11 am in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.

The legislation also adds a new code subsection to address what may and may not be included in a V.A. Among the areas covered in the bill are entertainment, noise, litter, parking, hours of operation and occupancy. The bill further details what a V.A. may not include.

In that section are such items as restraint of trade, attendance at meetings and conflicts of interest. The V.A. is a facet of DC regulatory processes by which residents and community organizations may negotiate with a liquor license holder to set mandates that are not part of standard regulations.

Another new item in the proposed legislation is a noise “hotline” to handle resident complaints. In a press release, Graham said, “This legislation addresses the problem of spillover noise in neighborhoods that are adjacent to entertainment areas. The bill requires a nighttime complaint line and a response team at ABRA (Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration) that will be operational every night until one hour after the legal bar closing time”.

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by Borderstan.com June 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,612 42 Comments

Editor’s note: The following guest column is from the president and vice president of the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA), Lee Granados and Stephen Rutgers, respectively. Granados’ grandparents were Spanish immigrants, and she grew and continues to live just off the 17th Street corridor. Borderstan welcomes guest columns on variety of subjects with differing viewpoints; email us at borderstan[AT]gmail.com. Disclosure: Borderstan is a supporter of UNA.

"DC's 17th Street corridor in Dupont Circle"

The corner of 17th and Q Streets NW, the heart of the 17th Street corridor. (Borderstan)

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

For those of you new to the city or who may not know the history, 17th Street was built out of the desire of early immigrants to achieve the American Dream. Through their hard work, dedication and family sacrifice, these immigrants strived to provide future generations a better life.

Name a continent and it is likely that an immigrant got their start somewhere close to the 17th Street Corridor. So popular that multiple presidents, diplomats and even the famed musician Jim Morrison used to visit often, the 17th Street corridor has been built upon people knowing and taking care of one another.

Things have, unfortunately, changed. “What’s best for the neighborhood?” has been replaced with “What’s best for me/my house?” Honest debate born of rational self-interest has been replaced with the use of leverage — no matter what the cost to the business and its employees.

These are the things that should be talked about and considered, and why VAs are now an archaic concept of the past. This is the time for the community to voice their support and to respect small businesses and our local elected officials. If there is an issue with a decision — take it up with your elected officials, not the small business striving for the American Dream.

"La Fonda Restaurant on 17th Street NW in DC"

La Fonda restaurant was at the corner of 17th and R Streets NW. Pictured are Adelina Pena (center, grandmother of Lee Granados) with her daughters, Angelina Pena and Adelina Callahan. The former Casa Pena on 17th was the deli started by Manuel and Adelina Pena after they immigrated. (Courtesy Lee Granados and UNA)

As this community was built, if there was a problem, it was addressed with your neighbors through productive dialogue and debate. Fast-forward to modern-day and that dialogue has been lost at the hands of a small group seeded in irrational self-interest — no matter the collateral damage to the small business owners and the evolving communities.

The unfortunate reality within our community is that as small businesses eye moving in they are forced with choosing either potential financial hardship, at the hands of a small minority, or they simply choose not to come to the 17th Street area at all, given the considerations.

For example, Hank’s Oyster Bar has been forced to spend in excess of $50,000 in legal fees, and other businesses on the street have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting similar small groups. We have elected officials in our local ANC 2B that represent our community and the voice of the people. When our elected representatives take up these issues and make a decision, we should respect that.

Many employees in these small businesses reside in and around the neighborhood, and they are doing jobs that many take for granted. These people work hard and work to better their lives through promotion, skill and/or opportunities afforded them at local businesses. Here are some hard facts regarding Hank’s: 12 to 15 employees reside in the neighborhood, eight to 10 more employees live in the city and 80% are long-term employees.

Voluntary Agreements (V.A.’s) between businesses and/or residents and local groupsdo not discuss the loss of revenue to the business, to the owner, and their employees. That is not only a shame but furthers the perception of people acting purely out of self-interest.

"Java House Cafe at 17th and Q NW in DC"

Communities revolve around local businesses. Java House Cafe at 17th and Q NW has been a neighborhood gathering spot for two decades. (Borderstan)

For every day an owner is fighting a VA they are losing thousands upon thousands of dollars of revenue and time needed to focus on developing their business. And their employees, when affected, lose income to pay their bills.

These are the things that should be talked about and considered, and why VAs are now an archaic concept of the past. This is the time for the community to voice their support and to respect small businesses and our local elected officials.

If there is an issue with a decision — take it up with your elected officials, not the small business striving for the American Dream.

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by Borderstan.com June 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm 2,079 19 Comments

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

News of licensing agreements about local businesses and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board has been rocking area websites and newsfeeds for more than a week. Hank’s Oyster Bar, a local restaurant just off the 17th Street corridor, was forced to shut down half of its outdoor patio on June 8 due to a pending review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents; two of the original six protestants filed the appeal. The hearing was held last Wednesday, but nothing has resulted (as of yet) from the battle between a handful of local residents and the local business.

Reader Poll: What’s your opinion? Should a minimum of five residents or property owners be allowed to file a protest against liquor license application that then goes before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board — or should that number be increased? Take our reader poll. We will share the results early next week.

"U Street NW"

How many residents should DC law require to protest a liquor license application? (Luis Gomez Photos)

That’s the law in DC: At present, a minimum of five residents or property owners (three if it is a liquor license moratorium zone) living up to 600 feet away from a restaurant or bar with a liquor license can file for a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with an establishment — for reference, a football field is 360 feet long.

Residents — as well as neighborhood associations and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions — can also protest a pending liquor license application, and then the establishment must reach an agreement with the group or groups. (Hank’s is located in the Dupont East Moratorium Zone.)

V.A.’s are often used to limit hours of operation or specify how  outdoor dining areas are used. There may also be other requirements that the bar or restaurant must agree to follow to obtain the liquor license. (See details below.)

Since the closure of half its patio at 1624 Q Street NW, Hank’s has procured the support of local businesses and organizations, including the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA). Furthermore, an online petition in favor of Hank’s was posted on June 18 and has already received about more than 1,200 signatures.

The petition, started by Mary Tucker, calls on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director, Fred Moosally; Ward 2 Council Member, Jack Evans; Councilmember and ABC Committee Chair, Jim Graham; and DC Mayor Vincent Gray to end the ability for a small number of residents to hold up liquor licensing.

DC Code Spells Out Protest Rules

If you want to dive into the weeds, Title 23, Chapter 16 of the DC Code stipulates the rules for filing a protest against a liquor license. The specifics on who can protest are in Title 25, Chapter 6:

§ 25-601. Standing to file protest against a license

The following persons may protest the issuance or renewal of a license, the approval of a substantial change in the nature of operation as determined by the Board under § 25-404, a new owner license renewal, or the transfer of a license to a new location:

(1) An abutting property owner;

(2) A group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest; provided, that in a moratorium zone established under § 25-351 (or in existence as of May 3, 2001), a group of no fewer than 3 residents or property owners of the District sharing common grounds for their protest;

(3) A citizens association incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia located within the affected area; provided, that the following conditions are met:

(A) Membership in the citizens association is open to all residents of the area represented by the association; and

(B) A resolution concerning the license application has been duly approved in accordance with the association’s articles of incorporation or bylaws at a duly called meeting, with notice of the meeting being given at least 10 days before the date of the meeting.

(4) An affected ANC;

(5) In the case of property owned by the District within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the Mayor;

(6) In the case of property owned by the United States within a 600-foot radius of the establishment to be licensed, the designated custodian of the property; or

(7) The Metropolitan Police Department District Commander, or his or her designee, in whose Police District the establishment resides.

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by Borderstan.com June 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm 1,456 0

"Hank's Oyster Bar Patio"

Until the ABC Board rules, Hank’s Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW is only allowed to use half of its patio space to serve diners. (Luis Gomez Photos)

There is now an online petition supporting Hank’s Oyster Bar, and owner-chef Jamie Leeds, in its dispute with a hand full of protestants over its outdoor patio space and Voluntary Agreement (V.A.). The name of the petition is “Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration: Rule in Favor of Hank’s Oyster Bar Dupont Circle.” The peititon is to Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director Fred Moosally; Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2); Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and ABC Committee Chair; and DC Mayor Vincent Gray.

Hank’s V.A. was with six protesters who live in the general vicinity of the restaurant on Q Street just off 17th Street NW. Hank’s was allowed to terminate its V.A. in November 2010, but in May the District of Columbia Appeals Court remanded the ruling back to the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board. The hearing on the case was June 13; the ABC Board has up to 90 days to rule. The Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is the agency that oversees DC liquor laws. The ABC Board, composed of mayoral appointees, makes decisions on cases. Only two of the original six protesters were party to the appeal to the court.

The petition was created at change.org and organizers are aiming for 5,000 signatures. Late last week the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) called on supporters to back Hank’s. Last week, Leeds posted a letter on her restaurant door, website and Facebook page asking for community support.

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by Borderstan.com June 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm 1,517 8 Comments

"Hank's Oyster Bar patio"

For now, Hank’s can only use half the patio seating area. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

The hearings on the widely reported Hank’s Oyster Bar saga got underway Wednesday afternoon and were still proceeding well into the evening as this story is written. The final outcome could be weeks away for Hank’s ever-patient chef and owner Jamie Leeds, who thought her troubles were behind her when she successfully expanded her popular Dupont Circle restaurant in 2011, despite a protest from a group of six neighborhood residents.

The November 2010 Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board) decision allowing the termination of a neighborhood voluntary agreement (V.A.) and ultimate expansion of Leeds’ restaurant was appealed to the DC Court of Appeals by two of the six original protesters (David Malloff and Lex Rieffel). The Court ruled that the ABC Board erred in its order allowing termination, so the case was remanded the back to the Board. The Board now has 90 days to issue an order. The uniqueness of the  case and public outcry in support of Leeds’ situation raises hope for faster action from the ABC Board.

Things began to heat up this past weekend when the ABC Board ordered the restaurant to close half of the venue’s outdoor seating, reducing the outdoor dining space from 40 seats to 20. The Friday shutdown occurred without prior notification on a the review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents. Two of the six residents, David Malloff and Lex Rieffel, appealed the V.A. termination and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals kicked the case back to the ABC Board.

At that point Leeds went public, asking the community for support by emailing and calling DC councilmemers, the mayor and the head of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. In response, several local organizations supported Leeds.

Criteria for Termination of the V.A.

At issue in the case are the criteria for termination of a V.A. The appellate court decision said the ABC Board must meet three statutory subparagraphs for termination of a V.A. The original ABC Board order only met criteria (C). The three criteria are:

(A) The applicant (Hank’s/Leeds) seeking the amendment has made a diligent effort to locate all other parties to the voluntary agreement; or (ii) If non-applicant parties are located, the applicant has made a good-faith attempt to negotiate a mutually acceptable amendment to the voluntary agreement;
(B) The need for an amendment is either caused by circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or is due to a change in the neighborhood where the applicant’s establishment is located; and
(C) The amendment or termination will not have an adverse impact on the neighborhood where the establishment is located as determined under § 25-313 or § 25-314, if applicable.

Early in the hearing ABC Board Chair Ruthanne Miller made it clear that on remand from the Court of Appeals the Board must make findings on paragraphs (A) and (B) and any effort to have the case dismissed would be inconsistent with the decision of the Court of Appeals. At the time of the 2010 order the ABC Board had been chaired by Charles Brodsky.

Dupont East Liquor License Moratorium

Leeds’ representative, Andrew Kline, first called Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) Jack Jacobson (2B04) as a witness. Jacobson detailed the 2009 ANC review of the Dupont East liquor license moratorium and its recommendation to allow for two lateral expansions. Later Jamie Leeds was called as a witness and detailed the timeline of how she saw the opportunity to expand her operation. Kline argued that this easing of the moratorium, the rezoning of adjacent space next to Hank’s and the restaurant’s success met the conditions of subparagraph (B).

Testimony

For the criteria in subparagraph (A), Kline presented a letter and email correspondence from February 2010 to his last witness, David Mallof, one of the original signatories to the V.A. The correspondence stated that Leeds desired to expand her business and wanted to meet with the protesters.

Under questioning by Kline about efforts to reach out to the parties to the V.A., Mallof argued that the email chain had been “cherry-picked” and that he had several phone conversations with Kline about Hanks’s. Mallof also explained that he was somewhat confused about the expansion plans and thought perhaps Leeds wanted to expand into the Trio space at the corner of 17th and Q Streets NW. He further explained that he wanted  some sort of proposal or Powerpoint presentation with “meat on the bones” before coordinating a meeting — and had concerns with a suggested weekday meeting during business hours when residents might not be available. ABC Board members questioning of Mallof suggest they did not fully understand why a meeting did not occur despite overtures from Leeds.

Leeds has previously stated, and did so again yesterday, that she felt compelled to sign the V.A. in order to open her restaurant, noting that she would otherwise have had to wait approximately six months for a hearing to resolve the original demands by the protest group; the wait would have been extremely costly for Leeds. At the time she agreed to the terms of the V.A., the liquor license moratorium on 17th Street prevented Leeds from potentially expanding her business. However, when the Dupont East Liquor License Moratorium was later amended to allow for a limited number of “lateral expansions” for existing restaurants; Leeds said she then initiated a request to review the restrictions in the V.A. with the group of six protestants with whom she had signed the V.A.

(Note: I was unable to stay until the end of hearing, which began at 4 pm and did not conclude until 8:30 pm.) According to additional sources who stayed for the entire hearing, witnesses for the protestants who appealed the termination of the V.A. said that their reluctance to meet with Leeds was due to her failure to detail in advance of their agreeing to meet exactly what changes she hoped to make to the business, i.e., the expansion into the adjoining space to the east.

Mallof, plus one of the original protestants, conceded in their sworn testimony that they understood that Leeds hoped to expand to an adjoining space, as informed by correspondence at the time from Leeds’ attorney, but claimed to be confused as to whether this meant an expansion to the adjoining vacant space rezoned for commercial use or whether Leeds planned to take over the Trio restaurant building next door. They also acknowledged their understanding that the expansion would naturally require an increase in the capacity for the restaurant, necessitating a change to the seating limit specified in the V.A.

The big question now is when will the ABC Board reach a decision? Will Leeds and Hank’s Oyster Bar have to operate under the original V.A., or will the ABC Board be able to rule that its original decision to release Leeds from the V.A. was valid, based on the presentation of new evidence at the Wednesday hearing? The Board has up to 90 days to reach a decision.

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by Borderstan.com June 13, 2012 at 7:00 am 1,346 0

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

"Hank's Oyster Bar patio"

For now, Hank's Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW can use only half of its patio space. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The neighborhood is heating up in more ways than one this week. Yes, the humidity is unbearable (and it’s only June?), but the battle over patio dining and liquor licensing for a neighborhood seafood restaurant and oyster bar takes the shucking medal.

Jamie Leeds and supporters of her 17th and Q NW establishment, Hank’s Oyster Bar, are taking on the system (and two area residents) – and Leeds is not backing down at this point.

This past weekend, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board ordered the restaurant to close half of the venue’s outdoor seating, reducing the outdoor dining space from 40 seats to 20. The order came just before Capital Pride Weekend when the 17th Street area is flooded with city residents and tourists alike.

The Friday shutdown occurred without prior notification and ahead of an ABC Board hearing (Wednesday, June 13, at 4 pm, Reeves Municipal Center) on a pending review of an ABC Board decision approving termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents. Two of the six residents, David Malloff and Lex Rieffel, appealed the V.A. termination and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals kicked the case back to the ABC Board. (More on V.A.s are the end of this story.)

Local Organizations Rally to Leeds’ Appeal

Over the weekend, Leeds quickly turned to the public and asked for support on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page. Leeds posted contact information for DC councilmembers, the mayor, and the head of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), the DC agency which regulates the city’s liquor laws. The ABC Board, made up of mayoral appointees, holds hearings and issues rulings.

The story was quickly picked up by media outlets and blogs, including Washington City Paper, Greater Greater Washington, Washington Blade, MetroWeekly, Prince of Petworth and Eater. Facebook and Twitter have been abuzz over the Hank’s story ever since Leeds sent out her statement and appeal, with the vast majority of postings supporting Leeds and Hank’s. The MetroWeekly article contains a statement from Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), in which Evans voices his support for Hank’s,

Then, on Tuesday, the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the Urban Neighborhood Alliance (UNA) and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) backed Hank’s Oyster Bar and urged members and constituents to show their support. The organizations encouraged emailed their members and followers, asking them to contact local government officials in support of Hank’s and to visit Hank’s (in the meantime) to help the local establishment recover lost revenue and Hank’s legal fees — and to testify at today’s hearing on Hank’s behalf. GLAA posted a piece on its, “How not to run an ABC Board” and UNA posted the appeal on its website.

Voluntary Agreements

The court reversed the November 2010 ABC Board decision and ordered them to instead determine if Hank’s made a good faith attempts to negotiate an amended V.A. with the group of neighbors who were parties to the original V.A., which dates back to 2005. Shortly after the ABC Board issued the opinion to terminate the V.A. they also agreed to allow Hank’s to expand operations into adjoining space. (See ABC Board Says Hank’s Oyster Bar Can Expand, December 2010).

V.A.s have become common citywide as a negotiating tool that sets restrictions beyond the standard regulations in exchange for a liquor license. Most frequently a V.A. limits hours of service of alcohol both inside and outside on sidewalk cafes. Back in 2010 Leeds said 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. The 2005 V.A., which Leeds signed, even regulated the labeling on the umbrellas Hank’s could use on its patio.

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by Borderstan.com June 11, 2012 at 7:40 am 2,068 13 Comments

In a statement released over the weekend, Hank’s Oyster Bar said that its restaurant at 17th and Q NW was informed by Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board investigators on Friday evening, June 8, that the establishment would be required to shut down operation of half of its outdoor dining patio pending review of a prior ABC Board decision approving termination of a Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) with six area residents.

According to the statement released by Hank’s, “The sudden and unexpected order came without prior notification and in advance of an ABC Board hearing on the matter scheduled for Wednesday, June 13. The visit by agency investigators came in response to complaints by the small group of original licensing objectors.”

"Hanks Oyster Bar" Borderstan" "Q Street NW"

1624 Q Street NW: Hank's Oyster Bar was ordered Friday evening by the city to close half of its outdoor patio area. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Appeal for Community Support

Hank’s owner and Chef Jamie Leeds also posted an appeal for public support on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page. Leeds is asking neighbors and supporters to contact government officials in support of Hank’s pending review before the ABC Board on June 13 (details below).

However, there is no guarantee that a ruling will come quickly and the issue could be costly for Leeds. She told Borderstan in October 2010 that she had already spent $40,000 to $50,000 in legal fees related to the liquor license, V.A. and plans to expand into the space next door.

“Although the appeals court had issued the ruling over three weeks ago, no directive had been issued by either the court or the city requiring any action by the restaurant pending city agency review,” according to the statement from Hank’s. While the V.A. was with six signatories, only two of the original signatories filed the appeal, according to a spokesperson for Hank’s — David Malloff and Lex Rieffel; neither live adjacent to Hank’s Oyster Bar.

In part, Leeds’ letter to the community reads: “If you agree that allowing a small number of individuals to dictate what happens in our community is wrong, please contact ABRA [Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration] ([email protected]), Ward 2 CM Jack Evans ([email protected]), CM Jim Graham ([email protected]), Chair of the committee that oversees ABC, and Mayor Vincent Gray ([email protected]). Let them know that the ABC Board should be urged to make a decision quickly after next Wednesday’s hearing, reaffirming the termination of our V.A.

Also let them know that it is time to stop allowing a few residents to dictate what happens in a neighborhood, particularly when the duly elected ANC [Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B] members feel otherwise. The right of a group of 5 residents to hold up a license application should be eliminated from the law. Otherwise, the situation I find myself in will undoubtedly occur again.”

“Having our popular outdoor dining area suddenly shut down without advance warning and as a result of a spurious complaint by the small group of only six objectors who have been harassing the business since we opened seven years ago is shocking,” said Leeds, who was on-site at the time of the surprise visit by city inspectors. “We haven’t even had our ABC Board hearing on this ongoing nuisance protest,” she continued, “and to be told as the summer season begins that we have to eliminate half of our patio seating is unwarranted and unfair,” said Leeds.

In addition to other requirements, the 2005 V.A., between Leeds and six residents regulated the labeling on the umbrellas Hank’s could use on its patio.

Court of Appeals Ruling

Borderstan first reported on in late May on a piece in The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes that explained how the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an opinion related to the seven-year-long battle between a group of neighbors and Hank’s Oyster Bar. The opinion states that the ABC Board was wrong in their decision to allow termination of the V.A. Hank’s had operated under based solely on whether doing so would have an adverse impact on the community. (See ABC Board Approves Termination of Hank’s V.A., November 2010).

The Court of Appeals opinion states that the ABC Board was wrong in their decision to allow termination of the V.A. Hank’s had operated under based solely on whether doing so would have an adverse impact on the community.

The History

The court reversed the November 2010 ABC Board decision and ordered them to instead determine if Hank’s made a good faith attempts to negotiate an amended V.A. with the group of neighbors who were parties to the original V.A., which dates back to 2005. Shortly after the ABC Board issued the opinion to terminate the V.A. they also agreed to allow Hank’s to expand operations into adjoining space. (See ABC Board Says Hank’s Oyster Bar Can Expand, December 2010).

V.A.s have become common citywide as a negotiating tool that sets restrictions beyond the standard regulations in exchange for a liquor license. Most frequently the V.A. limits hours of service of alcohol both inside and outside on sidewalk cafes. Back in 2010 Leeds said 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. The 2005 V.A., which Leeds signed, even regulated the labeling on the umbrellas Hank’s could use on its patio.

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by Borderstan.com May 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,396 6 Comments

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

Late last week the blog of LegalTimes reported that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued an opinion related to the seven- year-long battle between a group of neighbors and  Hank’s Oyster Bar at 1624 Q Street NW in Dupont Circle.

"Borderstan""Hank's Oyster Bar"

Hank's Oyster Bar is just off the 17th Street corridor . (Luis Gomez Photos)

The opinion states that the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board was wrong in their decision to allow termination of the Voluntary Agreement (V.A.) Hank’s had operated under based solely on whether doing so would have an adverse impact on the community.

“The neighbors have been overwhelmingly supportive of the expansion. I have not received one complaint since we have opened. I was shocked to hear that the court ruled to overturn the vacating of the voluntary agreement. I thought we had moved forward, but unfortunately it seems we are taking a step back in the growth of this neighborhood,” said Jamie Leeds, chef and owner of Hank’s.

The court reversed the November 2010 ABC Board decision and has ordered them to instead determine if Hank’s made a good faith attempts to negotiate an amended Voluntary Agreement (VA) with the group of neighbors who were parties to the original V.A., which dates back to 2005. Shortly after the ABC Board issued the opinion to terminate the V.A. they also agreed to allow Hank’s to expand operations into adjoining space.

V.A.s have become common citywide as a negotiating tool that sets restrictions beyond the standard regulations in exchange for a liquor license. Most frequently the V.A. limits hours of service of alcohol both inside and outside on sidewalk cafes.

Back in 2010 Leeds said 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.

Since the November 2010 decision the Board has several new members including a new chairperson, Ruthanne Miller. No word yet on when the ABC Board will review the case again.

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by Borderstan.com March 2, 2011 at 5:15 am 0

DC street sweeping, Department of Public Works, Borderstan

Don’t get towed! Street sweeping got underway for the year yesterday in D.C. and the Department of Public Works has done more than post new signs; more streets have been added for cleaning and the days and times that blocks will be cleaned have changed. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Michelle Lancater

West Dupont Liquor Moratorium Reviewed, Changes Recommended

The notes put on Scribd indicate some interesting recommendations are going before ANC2B with regards to the West Dupont [liquor] Moratorium. These include a call to eliminate the cap on CR/DR licenses to create a new ‘Restaurant Row,’ as well as more guidance on voluntary agreements. They recommend more VA’s be sought with new businesses and favor closing hours before 1am on weeknights and before 3am on weekends. Kevin O’Connor, who represents part of that area on Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B is heading up the panel; check out his site for some background. What do you think?

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