City Paper Widget

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shadow Senator Paul Strauss Represents Dino's Grotto at ANC1B

Dean Gold and Kay Zimmerman came before the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street last night (April 16) in support of their soon-to-open Shaw restaurant, Dino's Grotto (1914 9th Street NW). Speaking on their behalf was D.C. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss, in his day-job role as a private attorney. Gold and Zimmerman have recently closed their award-winning Cleveland Park restaurant, Dino's.

Strauss in 2007
"The emphasis is on fine food and a fabulous wine cellar," Strauss said of Dino's Grotto.

Dino's Grotto doesn't need any sort of approval or endorsement from ANC1B. They have a liquor license, which they acquired from the previous occupants of the space, Portico Restaurant. They don't plan to request any changes to the license, which will allow the restaurant to stay open until 1am Monday - Thursday, and 3am Saturday - Sunday. The restaurant is not licensed to use outdoor space. There was no indication the owners of Dino's Grotto were interested in outdoor service.

"The plan is to have the same business as Cleveland Park," Strauss said. The restaurant will even look the same as the Cleveland Park restaurant, since a lot of the furnishings will migrate with their owners.

Strauss explained that Dino's Grotto will operate under a tavern ("CT") license, not a restaurant ("CR") license. Holders of a restaurant license have the obligation of showing to D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) that at least 45 percent of their income derives food sales. A tavern license has no such obligation.

Dino's Grotto will be the sort of place, Strauss explained, that has a selection of high end wines, the price of which might be at least equal to the price of the food portion of the meal. Having a tavern license will free the owners from the worry that sales of expensive bottles of wine will cause the restaurant cross the 45 percent threshold, and endanger their liquor license.

Since there was no need for a vote, the liquor-licensing affairs committee thanked Strauss, Gold, and Zimmerman for coming to the meeting and wished them the best of luck.

Dean Gold promised "a very soft opening" in the near future.

"We look forward to it," said ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09).

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Doi Moi to Have 60 Outside Seats on S and 14th Streets

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle endorsed a proposal that would give 60 outdoor seats to Doi Moi (1800 14th Street NW). The popular Southeast Asian restaurant at the corner of S Street received the endorsement at ANC2B's regular monthly meeting on April 9.

Doi Moi's patio facing S Street
Of these, 48 seats will be enclosed in a purpose-built patio (see photo) facing S Street. It is set apart from the sidewalk and will have outdoor umbrellas.

The other 12 seats will be on the 14th Street side of the restaurant. There will be six "two-tops" running along the east wall of the building, starting at the south corner.

There was some discussion about the amount of space this would leave on the sidewalk for pedestrians. On paper, DC requires a pedestrian space ten feet across. At the meeting, Commissioners noted this requirement was no longer being enforced outside the downtown business district.

There is a bicycle rack, a lamp post, and a tree with knee-high railing on the sidewalk on the 14th Street side of Doi Moi. The addition of outdoor tables may create a pedestrian choke-point. ANC2B, as part of its endorsement of the plan, will urge  the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which oversees public space managment, to make sure that the placement of tables is appropriate for pedestrian safety on 14th Street.

Doi Moi has a settlement agreement with ANC2B and a group of 29 neighbors (starting on page four of a .pdf here). Doi Moi's plan is "consistent with the settlement agreement", according to Commissioner Noah Smith (district 09). In fact, the settlement agreement states the exact amount of outdoor places Doi Moi may have, which is the same number as they are applying for.

Doi Moi is in Smith's ANC district.

The settlement agreement also states there will be no outside standing bar, no outside line for outdoor seating, and no outdoor seating hostess. Customers wanting outdoor seating will have to see a restaurant hostess indoors.

Outside service will end at 11pm Monday - Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. There is no provision to extend hours on the evenings before holidays.

Commissioner Smith made the motion to endorse Doi Moi's public space application. It was passed by a unanimous vote of all the Commissioners present.

The request now moves on to DDOT for final approval.

See a .pdf copy of the letter about Doi Moi's outside space that ANC2B sent to DDOT's Public Space Committee here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Long-term Street Lane Closures in Shaw Starting 2017

Good news first: a massive DC Water project will ease chronic flooding in Shaw, LeDroit Park, and Bloomingdale. Bad news: to complete the project, it will be necessary to close traffic lanes for periods of 18 to 36 months on and near Rhode Island Avenue NW, starting 2017.

(from DC Water web site)
One closure is in Shaw. The other is very near Shaw and will severely affect east-west traffic in Shaw.

Want to know more? DC Water will hold a Ward 6 town meeting tonight (Tuesday, April 15) at 6:30pm in the Multipurpose Room of Eliot-Hine Middle School, 1830 Constitution Avenue NE. The meeting will address all aspects of the DC Water project, including street and lane closure both in Shaw and elsewhere in D.C. This meeting is part of eight ward-wide town meetings DC Water is holding this month.

If you can't get to the town meeting

DC Water presented the outlines of the ambitious project to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E/Shaw at its regular monthly meeting on April 1.  The street lane closures are only a small part of the plan to build the Northeast Boundary Tunnel, a hole 23 feet in diameter, located 100 feet underground. The tunnel will not only reduce flooding but also is necessary under a 1998 multi-party consent decree designed to clean up water in the Anacostia River and beyond. The district ratepayer is footing the bill for the project.

The projected closure in Shaw will be one lane for 24-36 months around the perimeter of Cooper Park (a "pocket park" made from a triangular patch of land bounded by Rhode Island Avenue NW, 6th Street, and R Street). The projected closure near Shaw will be two lanes at Florida Avenue and Third Street NW (near Rhode Island Avenue) for 18 months.

Some work at the Florida Avenue site should have started already. The plan is for this work to be completed by April 21. Later, DC Water will also have to drill holes in the ground at this site. There is no projected date to begin, but, once begun, work will take "two to three months", according to the presenters at the ANC meeting.

The presentation said the final design and construction phase of the project will start in December 2016.

Cooper Park

Cooper Park (left) at RI Avenue, seen from 6th Street
Since the Cooper Park site is in ANC6E, it got the more attention at the April 1 meeting. Like the Florida Avenue site, DC Water will, at some uncertain date in the nearish future, drill some holes in the ground at Cooper Park. This work is exploratory and there will not be any lane closures. This phase of the work will take two or three months.

During the 2017 construction phase, the park will be used as a staging area. The complete restoration of the park is included in the budget for the project. DC Water has hired a landscape architect and has a conceptual design for the park restoration. It solicited comment from the Commissioners on this point. ANC6E Commissioner Alexander Padro (district 01) suggested public art for the new space, and asked DC Water not to forget a water source in the park. Commissioner Marge Maceda (district 05) asked DC Water to include "playable art".

It is difficult to drive across town now. The lane closures will make it even more difficult. Padro worried about the impact the closing of a lane on R Street at Cooper Park. R Street carries a lot of crosstown traffic, Padro noted, and cannot be completely blocked.

"You must have some carrying capacity there or all hell's going to break loose," Padro said.

Padro also asked about the piles of sandbags around the vent on the median of Rhode Island Avenue at 7th Street, next to the Watha T. Daniel Library (1630 7th Street NW). The sandbags are there to prevent flooding on Metro's Green Line. Padro would like to see the sandbags removed. DC Water said the removal of the sandbags was not part of the DC Water project.

ANC6E videos its meeting and puts the videos on YouTube in 30-minute chunks. The presentation by DC Water can be view by following this link, starting at the beginning of the video, which is part two of the meeting. However, you cannot see the accompanying slideshow presentation. I was unable to find a copy of the slideshow presentation on DC Water's web site.

The Committee unanimously voted to send a letter to DC Water summarizing its concerns as articulated at the meeting.

Monday, April 14, 2014

ANC6E Tries to Referee Noise Dispute Between Church, Neighbor

A noise complaint against a church was heard at the regular monthly meeting of ANC 6E/Shaw on April 1. A neighbor told a long but undocumented story of repeated late-night noise. The church answered with a different version of events.

Shaw resident James Brush presented a case against the Church of the Living God (1206 4th Street NW, see photo). Brush lives in a building near the church. He said there is a 15-unit apartment building next to the church, and a 13-unit building backing the church, both of which can clearly hear music. Brush said he cannot watch TV or listen to the radio while the church has services because of the noise.

Brush said the church has amplified music five nights a week, from 7:30 to 11. One night recently, Brush said, the music went on until 11:30.

Brush told the commission he had complained repeatedly to the church about the noise without effect. He says he had called the police (most recently, on March 25) but "the police will not go to the door."

"Everything stops because of the church issue," Brush said. "It's what people directly state: 'We won't deal with the church'."

Brush said he went to the door of the church one evening when the music was playing loudly.

"I opened that door and was tackled by five of their men," Brush said.

The men tackled Brush, he claimed, and then threw him on the sidewalk.

When a group from the Church of the Living God, lead by Elder Kiki Young, had a chance to speak, they told a different story. She said the church had been operating in that location for several decades. Two years ago, there had been noise complaints. As a result, the church had installed extra insulation -- a fact which ANC6E Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04) confirmed.

The church is in Nigro's ANC district.

As for Brush's entry into the church, Young said: "He came into the church to shut the church down."

Young said Brush had come into the church, tried to disrupt the service, and announced he would not leave until the music was turned down. When church members tried to take Brush away, he grabbed a door handle, and refused to let it go while church members tried to force him to leave. The door handle finally broke off in his hand, a member of the church said.

Commissioner Nigro said she had tried to get D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to investigate the case, but they wouldn't. As reported in the SALM blog post of March 11, noise ordinance enforcement involves a complicated patchwork of jurisdictions and DC agencies. In an attempt to bring some amount of order to this contentious issue, DC has established a task force of relevant agencies, as well as a single telephone number -- 202-329-6347 -- that people can call with after-hours noise complaints. The task force is nominally city-wide but seemed, at least initially, to be targeting nightclub noise in Dupont Circle.

Several members of the committee repeatedly asked Brush if he had attempted to substantiate his claims with evidence like, for example, readings from decibel meters. The first few times he was asked, Brush did not answer the question directly. Brush finally said he felt the law should be enforced without having to resort to "all sorts of fancy instrumentation".

There was no vote or resolution on the matter. After both sides had stated their cases, it was agreed Nigro would try to work with the police and the parties involved to reach a solution everyone could live with.

ANC6E videos their meetings in their entirety and posts them on its Youtube channel in 30- to 35-minute chunks. The discussion of the case of James Brush and the Church of the Living God can be viewed by following this link and starting at about 30:00. The discussion continues for about 30 minutes. It is spread over two separate Youtube videos -- Parts 3 and 4 of the complete record of the April 1 meeting.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Le Diplomate to Host White House Correspondents' Dinner After Party

Attorney Steve O'Brien and William Washington, General Manager of Le Diplomate restaurant (1601 14th Street NW), came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle last night (April 10) to ask for endorsement of a one-day change in operating hours.

Late nights coming to 14th and Q
Le Diplomate wishes to stay open until 5am Sunday, May 4, so it may host a White House Correspondents' Dinner after party. The dinner will be hosted by The Atlantic magazine. It will start at midnight, after the White House Correspondents' Dinner itself on the evening of May 3.

Le Diplomate's settlement agreement (11-page .pdf here) states that it must stop operation at 1:45am on weekends. For this one time only, Le Diplomate will ask to be allowed to serve alcohol until 3am, and continue service until 5am.

Although Le Diplomate has a large outdoor space, William Washington told the ANC all service would be indoors.

The motion to endorse the request passed unanimously. O'Brien and Washington asked for a letter as soon as possible so the request can move on to D.C.'s liquor licensing authorities.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nude Dancing Liquor License Comes Out of Hibernation

Attorney Lyle M. Blanchard of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle last night (April 9) to plead the case of M Street Management Group LLC, operators of the 1819 Club (1819 M Street NW, see photo). The club hopes in to open in four weeks.

Not quite ready for the dancing
M Street Management Group is the holder of a rare item: a DC liquor license with a nude dancing endorsement. The liquor license has been "in safekeeping" since 2005, when the previous nude dancing club on the spot closed. Since then, the owners have been engaged in a long and difficult renovation of the property, which was built about 115 years ago.

Blanchard told ANC2B that M Street Management Group had bought the club in 2004, operated it for a year, and put the license in safekeeping.

Publicly-available documents from D.C.'s liquor licensing authority (27-page .pdf available here) indicate the property was bought at bankruptcy and had a top-to-bottom renovation. Plans had to be approved by D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the building is in a historic district. Then there were prolonged water and sewer problems which were eventually solved by digging a trench all the way across M Street, one lane of traffic at a time. There were also dealings with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) as well as building and fire inspectors.

According to this same document, D.C. liquor-licensing authorities gave (on December 11, 2013) a six-month extension to M Street Management Group's liquor license in safekeeping (until June 11, 2014).

Unusually, the residential neighbors have not voiced any objections. This was said to be because existing strip clubs on the street have been extremely scrupulous about honoring their commitments to the neighborhood and are never the source of excessive noise or security concerns.

It was reported some groups had "religious concerns". This did not seem to effect affect the course of ANC2B's debate on the topic.

Public records available here show that, in 2011, D.C. liquor license authorities dismissed a protest of M Street Management Group's liquor license by the group Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

All the ANC2B Commissioners present voted to protest the liquor license application, with the stipulation that the protest would be dropped if certain conditions were met. These conditions included demonstrating the club occupancy and square footage would not increase as a result of the renovation.

Letters of opposition (or support) of this liquor license can be filed at D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABRA) before April 14. A hearing about the liquor license will occur at 10am on April 28 at ABRA's offices on the fourth floor of the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

Washington City Paper Names SALM Best New Local Blog

Thank you, Washington City Paper, for naming Short Articles About Long Meetings as a Staff Pick for Best New Local Blog in D.C.

I would have been at your party last night, but I had an ANC meeting to attend.