City Paper Widget

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ghana Cafe: ANC2F Meeting Accomplishes Nothing

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle had a long and acrimonious multi-sided debate about the Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street NW) during its December 18 meeting. In the end, not much changed, except everybody was more aggravated. The committee voted to recommend to a continuation of the current ANC2F protest against Ghana Cafe's request for an amendment to its liquor license.

Ghana Cafe moved to 14th Street in 2009
Ghana Cafe seeks an entertainment endorsement on its liquor license. This will allow it to host live music.

The meeting got ugly. In the end, Ghana Cafe owner Tony Opare called members of ANC2F's Alcohol Policy Committee (APC) "racist", after he was denied the opportunity to continue the long and repetitious argument with committee members and protesting neighbors.

Both sides seemed to feel they would lose some important part of the argument if they were not allowed to have the last word, even if that meant repeating what they had said only a few minutes before.

There had been an attempt at mediation by D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), but it apparently was going nowhere. The real issue seemed to be that the protesting group of neighbors plainly wished to demonstrate that Opare had not lived up to agreements in the past, which damaged his credibility and made negotiating another agreement a waste of time.

"There is no evidence that he'll live up to his agreement," one neighbor said.

The protesting neighbors all live on the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue. Many of them live in an abutting property.

The protesting neighbors provided a long and well-documented list of occasions where the existing settlement agreement had not been honored. For example, the agreement calls for no parking in the area behind the Ghana Cafe. The protesting neighbors presented 13 photographs of 13 different days in June 2013 when Opare parked his personal car in the area.

Opare said that he had gotten a permit from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to park in the space. The committee explained that, permit or not, he had signed an agreement saying he would not park in the space. Opera argued that, once he received the DDOT permit, he was allowed to park there.

The debate ranged over a wide variety of issues, including noise, vermin control, trash collection, valet parking, deliveries, the content of Ghana Cafe's website, and the sale of Ghana Cafe Sauce at the P Street Whole Foods.

Opare did not help his own case by making statements which were demonstrably false, like when he claimed that D.C. health inspectors had recently come to his restaurant and "found nothing wrong".

"We passed with flying colors," he said.

It took committee members a few short minutes on their smartphones to find records showing Ghana Cafe had been cited for three critical violations of health code regulations on December 11 and six critical violations on July 31.

ANC2F Commissioner Jim Lamare (district 05) eventually came to the defense of Opare and the Ghana Cafe, saying that the neighbors were seeking to put him out of business. Lamare was the sole vote against continuing the ANC protest against Ghana Cafe's entertainment endorsement request. The vote was three for and one against, with Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) abstaining.

Fanning is the chair of the liquor-licensing affairs committee.

The full ANC2F will probably take up the matter of the Ghana Cafe again when it next meets. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

The conflict between Ghana Cafe and its neighbors about the entertainment endorsement on its liquor license was the subject of the October 10 SALM blog post.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Special Zoning for Big Box Stores Endorsed

Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 1B/U Street will consider a resolution at its next meeting that will force "big box" stores to apply for special zoning permission. The Design Review Committee of ANC1B unanimously approved a draft resolution which will deny "as-of-right" development for large retailers.

(Wikipedia)
A labor attorney presented the proposal to the Design Review Committee at its meeting of December 16. The attorney said that big box stores have a uniquely adverse effects on part of the local community, including small retailers. If a special exception from zoning regulations were required, first local ANCs would have to be consulted, after which applications could proceed to D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustments.

If it approves the resolution at its next meeting, ANC1B will become the third ANC to approve a resolution of this type. ANC 4B and ANC 4D are the other ANCs who have voted in favor of the extra bureaucratic step for big box stores.

There was some debate about exactly how big a store had to be before it qualified as a big box store. The draft resolution devised by the attorney suggested 75,000 square feet or greater. ANC1B decided to go along with this definition.

There was also some discussion about whether certain other types of stores, like grocery stores, would then be subject to this same rule as well. All agreed that no one wished to discourage grocery stores.

The labor attorney told the commission that his draft resolution was only a suggestion and ANCs could revise it as they saw fit.

Design Review Committee chair Tony Norman (Commissioner for district 10) predicted that the zoning commission would agree to the proposal. There was no public process for big box stores now, Norman said.

Norman is also chair of ANC1B as a whole.

The next meeting of ANC1B will be Thursday, January 2, 2014, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets NW). 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Citydog! Club First DC Location at 14th and Florida

A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted December 16 to endorse the request for zoning variances necessary for the establishment of a day-care service for dogs on the first floor of a mixed-use building at the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW. The recommendation of the Design Review Committee will now go to the full ANC for consideration at the next meeting in January.

CityDog! Club seeks to open here
CityDog! Club aims to set up its first franchise east of the Rockies at a building whose address was given variously at the meeting as 2301 and 2303 14th Street. However, the building also has humans living in it, so it needs a handful of zoning adjustments. Specifically, D.C. zoning regulations state animal shelters, animal boarding, and pet grooming establishment shall not abut a residential building. This case is somewhat unusual in that the abutting neighbors are not to the east, west, north, or south of the establishment seeking relief, but above it, i.e., the residents of the second floor apartments.

Presentation to ANC

A team lead by attorney Leila Batties of the law firm of Holland & Knight made the presentation to the committee. Also present were representatives of Citydog! Club and building owner-operator UDR.

Batties reported they had reached out to residents of the building five weeks ago. They had collected 105 signatures of residents saying they had no objection. This is 60 percent of the occupied units. Of the five apartments directly above the proposed canine day-care center, three had signed letters of support, and one apartment is vacant.

The presentation included a comprehensive summary of the planned business's layout and procedures. Half of the area of the business will be rooms for dogs to run around in. Ten percent is for canine sleeping and eating. There will never be more than 50 dogs on the premises at any time, and at most times there will be far fewer. Dogs may be dropped off for long or short periods, regularly or irregularly. Overnight boarding will be possible -- there will be staff on the property overnight to mind the dogs.

The two possible irritants for neighbors of this business will be odor and noise. The presenters demonstrated why they believe their business will be a good neighbor, meaning, the neighbors will not be subject to unpleasant smells or sounds.

Smells

Speaking about their experience opening the other branches, one presenter said: "What we learned is -- you can't be too clean."

The entire space will be cleanable and will be cleaned four times a day, the presenters said. Ventilation will be planned so that the air in the establishment will "turn over" eight to twelve times an hour. The presenters also showed  pictures of "Pet-o-Potties" (trade name: "PooPee Patches"), an indoor toilet for dogs. They are raised platforms with grass and a fire hydrant. Each dog "play room" will have one. These will be sanitized throughout the day and will drain directly to the sewer. The grass on the platform will be replaced monthly.

Sounds

The team brought along a sound consultant from the Polysonics Corporation to explain noise alleviation measures.

The consultant proposed a worst-case scenario. If the establishment was filled to capacity with 50 dogs and they were all barking continuously without stopping, the sound would probably be about 100 decibels (similar to the noise of a hand drill or a power lawnmover at three feet). The seven-inch-thick concrete slab between the first and second floors only alleviates sound up to 80 decibels. So, Citydog! Club will have an additional dropped ceiling, containing two layers of drywall and insulation. These measures taken together, the consultant said, would attenuate sound up to 100 decibels.

The representative of UDR pointed out that, because the company owns and manages both the residential and retail portions of the mixed-use building, it is in their interest to mitigate the noise as completely as possible.

The vote to support Citydog! Club's application was passed unanimously, with one abstention. 

CityDog! Club currently has two locations in the Los Angeles area, and one each in Dallas and Seattle. The first branch was opened two years ago.

The DC branch plans to employ 15 people, about half of them full time. Representatives of Citydog! Club said they planned to hire all staff locally.

The next meeting of ANC1B will be Thursday, January 2 9, 2014, at the Reeves Center, located at the corner of 14th and U Streets. CityDog! Club will want ANC1B's endorsement at that time so they will have it in hand for their scheduled hearing at DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on February 4.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Monday, December 16, 2013

1618 Q Street: Neighbors Turn Out Against

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle once again debated the contentious renovation of 1618 Q Street NW at its regular monthly meeting on December 4. Unhappy neighbors aired their views, and there was disagreement over whether the renovation as it stands is permitted under D.C. zoning regulations.

Sold for $1.14 million on 11/18/13
1618 Q Street is 132-year-old row house, built for one family. Workshop T10 is trying to develop it into a seven-unit apartment building. Their project would include excavating the basement and adding a one-story pop-up on top of the building, which is currently two floors. This project has had an unfavorable reception from various organizations it has presented to, including the Dupont Circle Conservancy, ANC2B, and D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

Details were reported previously in SALM blog posts for December 6, November 13, and October 15.

Is this project really "by right"?

Workshop T10 previously declared this renovation was entirely "by right" with reference to zoning, meaning, no waivers or variances were required from the D.C. government. Instead, Workshop T10 contents, it only needs the blessing of the HPRB. It is not clear if Workshop T10 has an official confirmation of this opinion.

ANC2B Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05) presented a conflicting view. In a resolution condemning the renovation, Nichols quoted extensively from Title 11, Section 1501 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations. This concerns the Dupont Circle Overlay District, created by D.C.'s Office of Zoning to guide development in the Dupont area.

One of the purposes of the Overlay District, it says, is "[e]nhance the residential character of the area by maintaining existing residential uses and controlling the scale, location, and density of commercial and residential development".

It is difficult to evaluate whether Nichols' interpretation of D.C. Municipal Regulations would limit or even forbid the type of renovation Workshop T10 wants.

In any case, the point became (for the time being) moot, because ANC2B decided to send the whole project back to its Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee for reconsideration. The vote was 7-1, with Nichols the sole opposing vote.

The ZPD Committee is next scheduled to meet on January 3, 2014, at 7pm, at the Resource Center (9 Dupont Circle).

Neighbors speak

Neighbors of 1618 Q Street had shown up at the previous two ANC meetings but were not given a chance to speak because of time constraints. December 11's ANC2B meeting was less full. ANC Chair Will Stephens (Commissioner for district 08) apologized for the previous inability to let neighbors have their say on the project, and vowed to allow enough time for public comment at this meeting.

An abutting neighbor told the ANC he was an architect and "very pro-business", but he was worried about two aspects of the project. First, he felt the basement excavation could endanger the foundation of his own property.

His second: "The roof deck will destroy my peace in my bedroom."

People on the roof deck would be able to look directly into his bedroom, he said.

In reply, Desiree Hollar of Workshop T10 denied that the structural integrity of the neighbor's house would in any way be endangered by the renovation, and the work around the foundation would proceed according to "a process mandated by D.C."

At another point in the meeting, Hollar agreed that the roof deck would look directly into the neighbor's bedroom.

Another neighbor, who lives on the 1600 block of Q Street, said she had not heard anything about the project until a notice was left in the door of her home just a week previously. In October, ANC2B asked Workshop T10 to reach out to the neighborhood about the renovation.

The same neighbor also disputed a claim by Workshop T10 that the house had previously been inhabited by "7 to 9 people". This neighbor, a 20-year resident of Dupont Circle, said the house had been a single-family home for 20 years until 2012. At that time, it was rented out to multiple tenants.

Finally, another group of neighbors from the 1300 block of 21st Street came armed with an eight-page handout, which they called a "case study". The case study referred to another renovation, at 1321 21st Street. This document contended that their experience with the project was relevant to 1618 Q Street and showed development "may well be worse than proposed due to lax oversight and enforcement."

The debate among Commissioners and testimony from the community took over an hour, and threatened to consume the whole meeting. Eventually, it was agreed to defer a decision, especially as Workshop T10 had submitted a new set of drawings to ANC on Monday for a meeting on Wednesday. Commissioners had not had a chance to thoroughly examine how the project had changed, accoding to Commissioner Leo Dwyer (district 07).

"I see that the project has improved," Dwyer said. "I'm not saying it's great."

Dwyer is the chair of ANC2B's ZPD Committee.

Friday, December 13, 2013

December Liquor License Roundup - ANC2F

It's nearly the end of liquor license renewal season. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle had a handful of liquor license renewals, as well as some other liquor license related business, at its last meeting, held on December 4.

Tortilla Coast (1460 P Street NW) has been in business for well over a year. Its current closing hours are 10pm from Sunday to Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday. At the meeting, commissioners reported on ANC2F's original agreement with Tortilla Coast. This agreement stipulated, if Tortilla Coast was open for business for a while without any liquor license related problems or conflicts with the neighbors, it would be granted permission for longer hours.

Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) reported no complaints against Tortilla Coast.

The ANC passed unanimously a resolution which will allow Tortilla Coast to stay open until 1am Monday to Thursday and 2am Friday to Sunday, which is consistent with other liquor-serving business in the neighborhood.

ANC2F also unanimously approved a settlement agreement it had negotiated with Glass House Coffee (1333 14th Street), a "high-end coffee shop with evening cocktails". Commissioners called the agreement "non-controversial". The outdoor space would be open until 1am Sunday to Thursday, and 2am Friday and Saturday. Read the September 20 SALM blog post for more about Glass House Coffee.

A settlement agreement is a document negotiated between a liquor-serving business, the ANC, and possibly other parties. It deals with an establishment's opening hours, trash removal, pest control, valet parking, and other aspects of a business that might impact the community.

The Ghana Cafe (1336 14th Street) was back again in front of ANC2F. A group of five is protesting Ghana Cafe's attempt to modify its liquor license (see October 10 SALM blog post). There had recently been a mediation hearing. The ANC voted to direct this matter back to its liquor licensing affairs committee for further consideration. The committee is next scheduled to meet on December 18, 7pm, in the second floor multipurpose room at N Street Village (1135 N Street). See an agenda here.

ANC2F also voted to support the recommendation of its liquor licensing affairs committee to support the liquor license renewal for A n D (1314 9th Street) and Black Whiskey (1410 14th Street).

It decided to take no action in the case of Lotus Lounge (1420 K Street). As reported November 22, an attorney for an abutting office building is protesting the application of Lotus Lounge to renew its license. The attorney seeks a settlement agreement with Lotus Lounge. ANC2F is not part of the protest.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Compass Rose Asks ANC1B for Sidewalk Cafe

Rose Previte, one of the aspiring proprietors of the bar/restaurant Compass Rose (1346 T Street NW), came before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street at its December 5 to ask for endorsement of a sidewalk cafe on T Street. However, no vote was taken because there were not enough Commissioners present to obtain a quorum (see December 9 SALM blog post).

1346 T Street (Luis Gomez Photos, used by permission)
ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (district 10) told Previte that the matter would be handled at the ANC's "executive session" on December 19, when Norman expected to be able to obtain a quorum.

Previte told the Commissioners in attendance that her public space permit for the sidewalk cafe from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) had already been approved pending endorsement from ANC1B.

Previte also said Compass Rose hoped to open in January 2014.

According to documents submitted at the meeting, the sidewalk cafe will be tiny -- 11.5 feet deep by 17 feet wide. It will have four tables with 10 seats. The iron fence that surrounds the space now will not be altered.

Compass Rose is working with Baltimore-based design collaborative Alter Urban on the design of the establishment's physical space, including sidewalk cafe.

Compass Rose has had a struggle to open. After long negotiations with the community group Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and other actors, a detailed agreement on bar operating hours and other details was approved by ANC1B in April. Further conflict resulted in June when the SDCA attempted to block Compass Rose's opening on the basis of area zoning.









Wednesday, December 11, 2013

David Catania on Education at ANC1B

DC City Councilmember and possible mayoral candidate David Catania addressed a meeting of ANC1B about the Council's Education Committee on December 5.

Catania at ANC1B December 5
Catania touted the achievements of the committee, which he has been chair of since January. He said he is still pursuing his goal to visit every school personally. So far he has visited 102 schools, he said.

Other achievements of the Education Committee included measures to promote test integrity and reduce truancy, Catania said.

Catania also said he was pleased about the passage of a bill ending the practice of social promotion in D.C. schools. Previously, he said, D.C. could only hold students back in the third, fifth, and eighth grades. As a result, when students got to high school level and had to take standardized test, one-third of ninth grade students failed. In ending the practice of social promotion, Catania said, he had returned responsibility for promotions to the teachers.

Another bill Catania explained was his attempt to get more city education funds directed towards at-risk students. He said the new funding system measures to what extent students are at risk and rewards increased funding based on how dire the at-risk student's circumstances were.

During a short Q-and-A session, a member of the audience asked, "What are you doing to keep me here?"

By this, the audience member meant that many D.C. parents enrolled their children in public elementary schools, but felt the need to move their families to the suburbs in time for their children to attend middle school.

He said the DC education system was "designed to defeat itself", because it does not support middle schools. Catania told an anecdote about middle-school students who preferred to travel across the city to one of the few adequate middle schools than go to an inadequate middle school that is across the street from their homes.

Improving D.C.'s middle schools was also the subject of a contentious Education Committee hearing earlier this month.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ANC2F Weighs in on Franklin School Proposals

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted to endorse two proposals to convert the long-vacant Franklin School (13th and K Streets NW) to other use. One endorsed proposal is for an art gallery space called the Institute of Contemporary Expression (ICE). The other is for a boutique hotel to be called "the Benjamin".

The Franklin School was built in 1869.
There are four proposals total -- see November 1 SALM blog post. ANC2F's input was solicited by the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development (DMPED) without guidelines, so the ANC could endorse all, some, or none of the proposals.


The motion to endorse the gallery and hotel proposals was put forward by Commissioner Matt Connolly (district 08). The Franklin School is in Connolly's district.

The two proposals favored by Connolly are the two proposals that would result in the Franklin School continuing to be open to the public in some form. ANC2F Commissioners agreed it was important that the community have access to the building, and their letter to the DMPED will emphasize the importance of public access.

However, according to ANC2F's web site: "The letter will commend all four redevelopment proposals and express the Commission’s support for whatever decision DMPED makes."

Some of the other Commissioners expressed preferences that did not exactly match Connolly's. Commissioner Walt Cain (district 02) was partial to the hotel proposal over the others, while Commissioner Chris Linn (district 03) thought there might not be a market for more boutique hotel rooms.

During the discussion that followed, between the Commissioners and later Commissioners and the public, there was some fear aired that "we might end up with another white elephant" if the project were not properly financed. Connolly said he had looked at the proposal and was satisfied that the funding plans for the projects were sound.

In the end, the other Commissioners deferred to Connolly's analysis and voted for his proposal without modification.

The unanimous decision occurred at ANC2F's monthly meeting of December 4.

Monday, December 9, 2013

ANC1B Commissioners Attend Party, Skip Meeting

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street was unable to obtain a quorum at its monthly meeting on December 5, because only six of twelve Commissioners were present. ANCs cannot take binding votes unless there is a quorum, which requires more than half the Commissioners to be present.

At the December 5 ANC1B meeting
At least some of the missing Commissioners were attending the annual Christmas party for ANC Commissioners, ANC1B Chair Tony Norman told the meeting. Norman told the audience early in the evening he hoped enough of the Commissioners would depart the party early to achieve a quorum, but not enough did before the meeting was adjorned.

The meeting went ahead, with local citizens and business people speaking to the Commissioners present. Local business people came to discuss applications by restaurants and bars for liquor licenses and use of outdoor space.

Norman promised that the ANC would meet in "executive session" next Thursday (December 12). He implied that votes on the matters discussed at the meeting would be taken at that time. There was no indication that this meeting would be open to the public, nor did he say how the ANC's decisions would be communicated to the public.

Commissioners who were present when the meeting started at 7pm: ANC1B Chair Norman (district 10), Ricardo Reinoso (05), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Commissioners who arrived less than 15 minutes late: Juan Lopez (07) and Emily Washington (08).

Commissioner who arrived 90 minutes late: E. Gail Anderson Holness (11)

Commissioners who failed to attend the meeting: Marc Morgan Norman (01), Jeremy Leffler (02), Sedrick Muhammed (03), Deborah Thomas (04), Dyana Forester (06), and James Turner (09).

At one point, during a presentation by a liquor licensee, Norman took a cell phone call, apparently from an absent Commissioner.

Although Norman took his phone out in the corridor, he could be clearly heard asking the caller: "Are you coming?" No additional Commissioners came after Norman received the call.

It is impossible to determine how many of the missing Commissioners were at the Christmas party, which was held at the Wilson Building.

To be fair, there were other activites (apart from the party) taking place the same evening which might have drawn off Commissioners, including a local fundraiser to buy winter coats for children and a forum for mayoral candidates.

Friday, December 6, 2013

1618 Q Street Renovation Tries Again

Workshop T10 was back before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle December 3. They had a freshly-revised version of their attempt to convert 1618 Q Street, currently a two-story single-family home, into a three-story building with seven apartments.

1618 Q Street was built in 1880.
The project has had a rocky trip through the approval process. First, it was presented to the Dupont Circle Conservancy (see SALM post of October 15). The Conservancy was not enthusiastic about the plan. On November 5, it was presented to the ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee (see SALM post of November 13), where it was criticized for not consulting with the project's neighbors. ANC2B as a whole voted to oppose the project at its meeting the following week.

It has not fared much better at the D.C. government level. A staff report from D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) was sharply critical of the project, saying that the project "will result in substantial demolition" of the house, as defined under law.

"The project results in incompatible additions and alterations to the house," the report also said.

Workshop T10 representatives came to the ZPD committee meetings with drawings fresh off the printer, based on recommendations and information obtained from the D.C. government less than five hours before. The new revisions incorporated HPRB's suggestions. They include preserving the original footprint of the house and reducing the height of the third-story addition.

The third story addition would be 13 inches shorter in the revised plans.

The new design would preserve as much of the original building as possible and would also move the location of the third-story addition toward the rear of the building.

However, it still seems as if the project would result in seven apartments and a roof deck, as previously.

Workshop T10 representatives apologized for "springing this on you at the last minute." But ZPD Committee members were not inclined to be charitable. Committee chair Leo Dwyer (Commissioner for district 07) noted that this was not the first time Workshop T10 had brought recently-changed drawings to a ZPD Committee and asked for swift approval. Committee members agreed they wanted more time to look at the new drawings.

Dwyer also said the neighbors to the west of 1618, who had protested the project at the previous ZPD meeting, were still opposed to the project. There was a meeting scheduled with the neighbors on December 5.

The ZPD Committee decided to take no action until they had had more time to examine the details of the new design.

"I'd feel better with no decision tonight," said Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

The project will also be presented again to the Dupont Circle Conservancy on December 10 and is on HPRB's agenda for their next meeting on December 19.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Initiative to Change O Street Traffic Pattern

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle heard a proposal last night to change the direction of O Street NW between 9th and 11th Streets. The proposal was made at ANC2F's regular monthly meeting last night (December 4).

Intersection of 10th and O Streets (Google Street View)
Paul Harrison, a resident of the 1000 block of O Street, came before ANC2F to announce the initiative of a group of concerned citizens. Harrison reported that most of the people on that block had signed a petition to D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2), requesting the change in traffic pattern.

If the change went through as request, O Street would turn one-way westbound between 10th and 11th Streets, and one way eastbound between 9th and 10th Streets. To put it another way, O Street traffic would diverge from 10th Street.

Harrison said the block had many families with young children who were concerned their street was no longer safe. O Street is currently a two-way street. Traffic had increased dramatically on it due to activity around the future site of City Market at O at the corner of O and 7th Streets. Many trucks have started using O Street as a regular route.

The proposal was supported by Sheri Kimball, constituent services director for Evans. Kimball told ANC2F she lived on the block. Of the residents of the block, only three had not signed the petition for the change, she said.

"The truck traffic down O Street is outrageous," she said.

In the ensuing discussion, it was asked why there were not signs banning trucks from the block. It turns out that there are, but the ban is not enforced.

Kimball told ANC2F that changing the traffic pattern on this stretch of O Street was just a matter of appropriate signage. It would be easy to remove the signs back again if the traffic pattern change turned out to be problematic.

"It would take about five minutes to undo," she said. "If it causes all kinds of problems, it won't be the first thing we've have to undo in this city."

ANC2F did not vote on the proposal.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Abandoned 30 Years, 1442 T Street to Get Renovation

The electricity was turned off sometime before 1983. A significant portion of the existing structure has decayed and collapsed. Some walls are braced from the inside. D.C. authorities have replaced part of the roof with plywood sheeting.

Inside 1442 T Street today (Photo credit below)
A committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle has heard a plan to covert a long-abandoned single-family house at 1442 T Street NW into a livable space. If it clears the necessary bureaucratic hurdles, 1442 T Street will once again be a single family home. It will be expanded to three levels and approximately 2,700 square feet, of which about 700 square feet will be in the basement.
 
Representatives of E/L Studio made the presentation at the regular monthly meeting of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee last night (December 3).

The proposed design would replace the existing L-shaped footprint. In its place would be a third story addition at the rear, and would create an enclosed lightwell on the north side of property.

According to testimony at the meeting, the proposed third floor addition would not be visible from T Street.

E/L Studio is seeking ANC2B endorsement on the renovation before they bring their project to D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for approval. HPRB approval is necessary because 1442 T Street is located in the U Street Historic District. No additional permissions or zoning variances will be required for the project to move forward.

ZPD committee chair Leo Dwyer (Commissioner for District 07) expressed enthusiasm for the project.

"It will be taking an abandoned structure and revitalizing it," he said.

No vote was taken at the meeting, but remarks by the commissioners indicated they would probably endorse it at the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for December 18 11, 7pm, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue). Commissioner Noah Smith (district 09) said he would write up a resolution and circulate it to the other ANC Commissioners before the meeting.

1442 T Street is in Smith's ANC district.

Online records show 1442 T Street was built in 1870 and sold in September 2013 for $450,000. 

(Photo credit: from documents presented by E/L Studio to the ZPD Committee) 





Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Neighbors, Civic Association Protest Mova Lounge

2204 14th Street in 2011
An representative of the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association has said the Association, plus a group of 19 citizens, will protest the application by Mova Lounge (2204 14th Street NW) for a renewal of its liquor license. The liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street heard on November 25 that the residents of the nearby residential condominium at 1407 W Street were concerned about the noise level coming from Mova Lounge's outside deck.

"The deck is literally 20 feet from our windows," the representative said.

Mova Lounge's application for the renewal of its liquor license had been endorsed by the full ANC1B at its previous monthly meeting along with a host of others. There had been no protests or neighborhood concerns voiced against Mova Lounge, so it was treated as a routine matter. ANC1B's endorsement has already been sent to D.C.'s liquor licensing authorities, and cannot be withdrawn.

The man from the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association claimed Mova Lounge had not "placarded" the liquor license renewal application, meaning, it had not posted the mandatory large red signs in the window of their establishment, notifying the public of the opportunity to protest a liquor license renewal.

As a result, neighbors were unaware that ANC1B was considering Mova Lounge's license, so no one from the community came to voice concerns about the noise coming from Mova Lounge's roof desk.

A member of the committee said if the allegations about the placards can be substantiated, then Mova Lounge's liquor license application would move back to square one and the whole process would start from the beginning. This time, however, ANC1B could join in the process.

In any event, the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association and a group of 14 neighbors have standing to protest the liquor license. The representative of the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association said the aim was simply an agreement with the club.

"We don't oppose their existance," he said.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Salina Restaurant: Liquor License Renewal Protest by ANC1B

The liquor licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 1B/U Street decided on November 25 to protest the application by Salina Restaurant (1936 9th Street NW) for renewal of its liquor license. Since Salina's liquor license was last renewed, there was a homicide connected with the bar, as well as 10 liquor-license related violations. Additional public information indicates Salina has had problems with health inspections as well.

Salina Restaurant (Google Street View)
"This place has a lot of issues," said ANC1B Commissioner Jeremy Leffler (district 02). Leffler is the chair of the liquor-licensing affairs committee.

Leffler mentioned that there had been a homocide connected with the establishment during the last liquor license period. However, D.C. liquor-licensing authorities decided to take no action against Salina in connection with the incident. For more information about the May 2010 slaying, read a report by Washington City Paper here.

On October 6, 2010, Salina was ordered to install security cameras within 30 days.

Leffler also read to the committee a list of liquor-license related violations which led to a total of $10,000 in fines against the establishment during the period. Most of these violations seemed to be connected with inadequate bookkeeping.

Official documents show Salina Restaurant was closed by D.C. authorities on October 23, 2013, after failing to pay outstanding fines and fees. It was allowed to reopen the next day after the fines and fees were paid.

Also mentioned at the meeting were health violations connected to the restaurant. The website of D.C.'s Department of Health shows that inspectors found three or more critical violations every year for the last three years. The problems noted in the 2013 inspection reports included improper storage of raw chicken and fish, unclean work surfaces, and no soap or paper towels at staff sinks. There were inspections in August and September 2013.

The committee voted unanimously to protest the liquor-license renewal on the basis of peace, order, and quiet, and indicated it wished to see a security plan for the establishment.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Neighbor to Protest Liquor License Renewal of Lotus Lounge

Lotus Lounge (1420 K Street NW) will have its liquor license renewal protested by an abutting property owner, according to information was made public at the November 20 meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle.

The protest will be brought by 1400 K Co., LLC, owners of the office building on the southwest corner of 14th and K Streets. 1400 K Co. seeks to have Lotus Lounge enter into a settlement agreement similar to the one 1400 K Co. has with another neighbor, The Park at 14th nightclub (920 14th Street).

The ongoing three-cornered struggle between ANC2F, 1400 K Co., and The Park at 14th nightclub has been the subject of previous SALM blog posts, most recently on November 14.

However, ANC2F will not join in the protest against Lotus Lounge. The deadline to petition D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for standing in this case is December 2, but ANC2F would not have an opportunity to vote until its meeting of December 4. The liquor-licensing affairs committee decided to take no action on the case, and it will not seek to enter into a settlement agreement with Lotus Lounge.

Attorney wants agreements with two nightclubs

Attorney John Patrick Brown of the law firm of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs is representing 1400 K Co. in both cases. At the November 20 meeting, he told the liquor-licensing affairs committee his client would sign the letter of protest against Lotus Lounge the following day. A protest will provide leverage in agreement negotiations.

"I have not communicated with Lotus," Brown said of the letter of protest.

Brown said Lotus Lounge, like The Park at 14th, had a "rich investigative history". In the case of the Lotus Lounge, this included brawling, shootings, and assaults on police officers.

Public documents indicate the Lotus Lounge was fined $4000 and required to suspend business for six days in June 2012 for "failure to have police detail".

A WUSA9 report (video available here) details a history of violent activity connected to the club, including the June 2011 case where a District Heights man was so severely beaten by off-duty D.C. police officers working as security for the nightclub that he lost an eye. Four D.C. police officers were indicted in June 2012 for assault, conspiracy, and perjury in connection with this incident, according to a Washington Post report.

Brown also noted that, although Lotus Lounge's official capacity is 239, its web site says the club's capacity is 400.

Brown said his client wouldn't mind if ANC2F delayed the process in order to join in. But when the committee did not express enthusiasm, Brown did not pursue the matter. 

"At the end of the day, the goal for my client is a voluntary agreement like The Park at 14th," Brown said.

A settlement agreement is sometimes entered into by liquor-serving establishments, ANCs, and third parties to codify arrangement concerning opening hours, trash pickup, valet parking, and other matters which may impact the public.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ANC2B Liquor License Roundup

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle had a marathon meeting on November 13 due in part to the 20+ liquor licenses up on the agenda. More than 125 members of the public showed up, which one Commissioner thought "more than the other ten months combined".

ANC2B meets at the Brookings Institution
Most of the licenses under consideration were being renewed, but there were also new licenses and "substantial changes". Many of them were routine matters, which required no action and little discussion. But a few of them took a lot of time.

"Club Central"

"Club Central" is ANC2B's shorthand for the stretch of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs on Connecticut Avenue NW between M Street and Dupont Circle. It contains more than a dozen liquor licensees of various sizes and classes, including several popular multi-floor nightclubs.

The November 13 meeting considered many of the licensees in this district. Mentioned often were Public Bar (1214B 18th Street), 18th Street Lounge (1212 18th Street), Dirty Martini (1223 Connecticut Avenue), and Midtown (1219 Connecticut Avenue). The conversation wandered from one to the other in a confusing patchwork. One bar wishes to expand hours of services. Another has taken concrete steps, costing thousands of dollars, to lower noise. But the central fact remained: it is noisy at Club Central until late at night.

The residents of the nearby condominiums and apartment buildings are disturbed by the noise. Many of the complaining residents come from The Palladium (1325 18th Street). Residents of this buildings and others came before the ANC last month as well to request action on increased noise from these establishment, especially but not exclusively from their roofdecks late at night.

It is difficult to point the finger at one particular operator for the noise, but the noise exists. Some establishments have agreements with the ANC, others don't. The ANC agreements that exist are not uniform. It is not fair to target the operators with agreements.

In addition, it is difficult to get D.C. noise ordinances enforced, especially when there isn't one clear source of the problem. Local residents are frustrated.

"It shouldn't be that we are being run out of our beautiful homes," one said.

In the end, the ANC voted to protest the application for renewal of liquor licenses for the four bars mentioned above, hoping that it would bring them all to the table and lower the late-night volume in the neighborhood.

Since the meeting, an additional complicating factor has occurred: the fatal stabbing of a young man and the injury of a police officer during a melee outside of Midtown in the early morning hours of November 18. Incidents of this type often cause ANCs to more closely scrutinize liquor license renewal requests.

Other protests
  • Bistro Bistro (1727 Connecticut Avenue) -- characterized by Commissioner Mike Feldstein (district 01) as a problem licensee in his district, with multiple constituent complains about noise and public safety complaints.
  • Fireplace (2161 P Street) -- a resident of the 3100 block of P Street testified to public urination, drug use, and fighting by customers. Fireplace security allegedly witnessed these behaviors but did nothing about them except refusing re-admission back into the bar. They also failed to act on harrassment of passersby by customers newly-emerged from the bar, the resident said.
  • Barcode (1101 17th Street) -- Barcode is in conflict with some residents of The Presidential Cooperative (1026 16th Street), an upscale residence nearby. The owner told the ANC he had been a good operator, and had only one minor liquor-license violation in three years. The owner said the same two people repeatedly complained about his establishment. The owner said he gave these two people his cell phone number so he could personally resolve problems, but instead the two prefer to call the police. After the owner spoke, a resident of the Presidential testified to witnessing multiple violations of capacity limits, and showed the ANC pictures to back his claim. He also said Barcode's valet parking service blocked the bike lane on L Street, and there were noise problems.
The ANC unanimously voted to protest these three liquor license renewal applications.

ANC2B also decided to protest the request by Bar Charley (1825 18th Street NW) for a "substantial change" to their liquor license. This was the subject of the November 18 SALM blog post.

Routine matters -- little or no discussion, no protests

The only completely new liquor license application was for Amsterdam Falafel (1830 14th Street). It was asking for a wine and beer license only. It has proposed late hours (4am on Friday and Saturday) but alcohol sales will cease earlier (2am on Friday and Saturday). The restaurant (not yet opened) was characterized as a place where customers might go to sober up after other places had closed. The ANC agreed to take no action, that is, neither protest nor endorse the liquor license application.

A long list of other establishments up for renewal did not generate any reaction from the Commissioners or the audience. In a few of these cases, Commissioners said a meeting with the establishment might be necessary due to noise complaints. However, none of the complaints were deemed serious enough to merit an ANC protest. The ANC took no action.

In these cases, it seems likely that the establishments will get their liquor licenses without further fuss.

Two Commissioners, Leo Dwyer (district 07) and Noah Smith (district 09), were absent from the meeting. Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06) recuses himself from all liquor-license matters because he is a member of D.C.'s ABC Board.



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1324 W Street: Single-family House to 4 "Probably Condos"

The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street has heard a proposal to turn a single-family house at 1324 W Street NW into a four-unit residence. The presentation took place at the Design Review Committee's regular monthly meeting on November 18.

1324 W Street was built in the mid 1890's.
Jim Shetler of Baltimore-based Trace Architects made the presentation, in search of ANC approval before he takes his project before D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for a concept review. Trace Architects must seek HPRB approval because 1324 W Street is in the U Street Historic District. In addition, the project will need review by D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).

Not so fast

"The clients are going to be in a hurry," Shetler said.

The clients are going to be disappointed. Design Review Committee Chair Tony Norman (Commissioner for district 10) told Shetler he was going to call HPRB to request the hearing on the project be postponed six weeks, until late January 2014.

Shetler had plainly stated there had been no attempt to contact nearby residents or groups.

"We need to notice it," Norman said, meaning the ANC had to inform the community that the Design Review Committee, and later the full ANC, would have public meetings about the presentation.

"The neighbors were not informed," Norman said. Norman then suggested Shetler start by speaking to the U Street Neighborhood Association, who had a representative in the room.

The proposal 

The house would be converted into four units, Shetler said. They would be "probably condos".

The view of the red-brick rowhouse would remain the same from W Street, but an addition would be added to the rear of the building. From the rear, the new addition of the second and third floors, and a new fourth floor, would be visible. The walls would be made of fiber cement panels with metal-clad wood windows and doors. There would be decking in the rear, supported by steel tube columns and protected by a wire mesh guardrail. There would be a top floor roof deck.

The ground floor would be excavated and a portion of the cellar would be removed to create two parking spaces. Parked cars would be partially protected by the ground floor deck.

In response to committee questioning, Shetler said HPRB recommendations included lowering the height of the proposed addition, reducing the depth of the balconies, and using alternate cladding.

"Have you decided to do those changes?" Norman asked.

"The only issue is the height," Shetler responded.

Norman said the proposal could be considered again at the next meeting of the Design Review Committee, which is scheduled for Monday evening, December 16, at 6:30pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

Norman is also the chair of ANC1B as a whole.

See a two-page .pdf document containing HPRB's staff report on the proposed renovation here.

1324 W Street was sold in July 2013 for $1.15 million, according to online records.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ANC1B Liquor License Roundup

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street made relatively short work of a long list of liquor license renewals during its regular monthly meeting on November 7. The meeting clocked in at under two hours, an astonishing achievement given ANC1B's previous practice.

ANC1B meets at the Reeves Center (14th and U)
A few licensees received the majority of the committee's attention.

Indulj

Indulj Restaurant and Lounge (1208 U Street NW) testified at the meeting in the hopes of overturning the recommendation of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee (reported in the October 23 SALM blog post) to protest the application to renew.

The general manager of Indulj testified that, in the wake of a high-profile shooting in December 2012, Indulj had acted quickly to provide police with Bevidence from the establishment's security camera. This evidence showed the shootings took place outside the establishment, using guns taken from cars after the participants exited Indulj.

The vote was 5 - 0, with three commissioners abstaining, to endorse the application for liquor-license renewal.

Climax

ANC1B voted unanimously to protest application of Climax Restaurant & Hookah Bar (900 Florida Avenue) for a renewal of its liquor license.

According to official documents, Climax was fined $2000 in September as for operating an outdoor "summer garden" without a license. The summer garden was found operating in June 2012 by an investigator from D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). Other documents show that, in February, Climax was fined $500 for a separate instance of the same charge of operating an unauthorized summer garden.

Also in September, ANC1B missed a chance to protest an application by Climax to make its outdoor summer garden legal because the ANC's representative missed a mandatory meeting with D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board about the matter.

No representative of Climax attended the ANC meeting.

Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge

At the previous meeting of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee, it was reported that Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge (2718 Georgia Avenue) had received five liquor license-related citations in the last three years, including citations for sale to a minor and interfering with ABRA investigation. There had also been a homocide in January near the club, and an incident of groping in September. The committee recommended no action on the liquor license renewal request until further community discussion.

At the meeting of the full ANC, it was reported that the operator of Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge had agreed to install cameras and meet with police. The operator of the establishment was expected to sign an agreement with the ANC the following week.

ANC1B voted unanimously to protest the liquor license renewal, with the provision that the protest would be dropped if the agreement was signed.

Town

ANC1B agreed to lift its protest of a substantial change to the liquor license for Town Danceboutique (2009 8th Street). The proprietor appeared before ANC1B with a scale model showing the improvements he had made to mitigate noise coming from the club.

Town Danceboutique is working with architects and Polysonics Acoustic & Technology Consulting on this project, which features sound-absorbing walls 10 feet tall and 5.5 deep, of the type used to absorb noise from airport runways.

Town Danceboutique also had letters of support from its neighbors.

Routine approvals

About 30 other liquor licenses were on the agenda, all the subject of little or no discussion. On many of them, ANC2B chose to take no action. In a few others, ANC2B voted to endorse the request for a renewal of their liquor license. In either case, it seems the licensees won't have a problem renewing their licenses.

Establishments in this category include: DC9 (1940 9th Street), Dodge City (917 U Street), Ben's Next Door (1211 U Street), Bar Pilar (1833 14th Street), Mockingbird Hill (1843 7th Street), Bohemian Caverns (2001 11th Street), Lost Society (2001 14th Street), Cafe St. Ex (1847 14th Street), and many others.

Of the twelve Commissioners on this ANC, three were absent for this meeting: ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (district 10), Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), and Commissioner Deborah Thomas (district 04). In Norman's place, Vice-Chair E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) presided. Anderson Holness said her practice when presiding was to vote only to break ties. She did not vote about any liquor-licensing matters.

Monday, November 18, 2013

ANC2B, Bar Charley, and the Group of Five

November 18, 3:30pm - Note: In the title and some places in this article, I mistakenly wrote that the name of the bar was "Bar Charlie". Apologies for the error. Thanks to IMGoph for pointing this out. (This blogging platorm does not allow strikethrough in titles.)

Also, there is an update at the bottom of the article.

An obscure part of D.C.'s liquor license protest regulations may marginalize a group that wishes to protest longer opening hours for Bar Charlie Charley (1825 18th Street NW).

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to protest the application by recently-opened Bar Charlie Charley to make a "substantial change" in its liquor license, specifically, to extend its hours of interior operation for an additional three hours a day, until 2am Monday - Thursday, and 3am Saturday - Sunday. The vote took place as part of ANC2B's marathon November 13 meeting.

Bar Charley replaced a Cajun restaurant.
The Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) and a group of five neighbors are also protesting.

For and against at the meeting, and before

First, Bar Charley's owner-operators put the case for extended hours, then ANC2B Chair Will Stephens (Commissioner for district 08, where Bar Charley is located) spoke in favor. Finally, four neighbors (three against, one in favor) also spoke. A woman from the 1700 block of Swann Street said she had 80 signatures on a petition against the extended hours. Her statement against the petition received applause by about 15 people in the audience.

Many other members of the community wished to comment but were not given permission to do so because of time constraints -- the ANC still had petitions from other restaurants, as well as foreign embassies and multiple property developers, to consider. Representatives of all these groups watched and waited, displaying various degrees of patience.

Meanwhile, an ill-tempered anonymous leaflet of leading "questions" for Stephens was distributed at the meeting. Example questions: "...why did you personally deliver leaflets supporting an establishment with pending business before your committee?" and "...why are you mischaracterizing the customary operating hours of our neighborhood restaurants... ?"

Stephens' web site also had hosted expressions of community opposition, both polite and not. Nine days before the ANC meeting, Stephens authored an article about Bar Charley's request. At the end of the article, Stephens said he planned to support the request for longer hours. This post drew community comment. In one comment, one anti-Bar Charlie Charley post called Stephens' claim of divided community opinion on Bar Charley "a blatant lie". Another respondent wrote to "respectfully disagree". Still another supported Bar Charley.

There was an additional comment made on Stephens' blog after the meeting: 
I would have loved to state [my opinion] in person at the meeting yesterday. Curiously enough there was not enough time for me to speak, after ample amount of time was dedicated to statements from all three owners of Bar Charley and yourself, all in defense of the license application.
Taken together, the anti-Bar Charley faction seemed determined to imply Stephens had made up his mind before the meeting and was doing Bar Charley's bidding.

Nevertheless, the ANC (including Stephens) voted to protest the application. The reason, according to a tweet from ANC2B Commissoner Kevin O'Connor (district 02): "Because DCCA & a group of 5 or more are protesting, we thought it best to be at the table. The owners [of Bar Charley] welcomed the idea."

The obscure rule

In addition to ANCs, two other types of entities can protest a liquor license application, renewal, or change. One is a registered community organization, which must hold public meetings and meet other requirements. The DCCA is such an organization. Its protest will having standing with D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), next to the ANC's protest.

The other type of entity that can protest is a group of five or more. This case also has such a protesting group.

There is an obscure ABRA rule part of D.C. law that says an agreement between an ANC and a liquor-licensee "bumps" a group of five's protest. To put it another way: If the ANC enters into a agreement with an establishment about opening hours, the group of five's protest will be dismissed automatically, whether the group of five is satisfied with the agreement or not.

If the recent behavior of Bar Charley's protesting neighbors is any indication of the character of the group of five, the group of five is more strongly opposed to the extended hours than ANC2B is. It may be difficult for Stephens and the ANC to convince the group of five and their allies that the ANC is really acting with their interests in mind.

A November 14 blog post by the web site Barred in DC provides more detail about this vote.

UPDATE:

After publication, I received the following information from ABRA. The section of the law which allows an ANC to "bump" a group of five is highlighted:


The law was recently updated by the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 as follows:

(w) Section 25-609 is amended as follows:
 (1) The existing language is designated as subsection (a).
 (2) The newly designated subsection (a) is amended as follows:
 (A) Strike the phrase “if any,” and insert the phrase “if any, and serve
a copy upon the applicant or licensee,” in its place.
 (B) Strike the phrase “Whether or not” and insert the word “Whether”
in its place.
 (C) Strike the phrase “The applicant” and insert the phrase “The
applicant or licensee” in its place.
 (3) A new subsection (b) is added to read as follows:
 “(b) In the event that an affected ANC submits a settlement agreement to the Board on a protested license application, the Board, upon its approval of the settlement agreement, shall dismiss any protest of a group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners meeting the requirements of § 25-601(2). The Board shall not dismiss a protest filed by another affected ANC or by a citizens association meeting the requirements of § 25-601(3) upon the Board’s approval of an ANC’s settlement agreement submission.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

17th and Q to Get Organic Indian Grocery Store

Updated November 15, 4pm - see below

An organic Indian grocery store named Pansaari will open at 17th and Q Streets NW, the future owner/operator announced at the regularly monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on November 13.

1603 17th Street is on the right
The store will be located in the basement of 1603 17th Street NW, the former location of Club Chaos nightclub, which closed in 2008.

Owner/operator Rano Singh spoke briefly to the ANC about her vision for the new establishment. She described it as a "Indian organic grocery and cooking school". As for her reason for opening in downtown D.C., she said: "I'm tired of running to Rockville and McLean" in search of genuine Indian ingredients.

She also said there would be a chai bar, but no take-out, so members of the neighborhood would be forced to stop and get to know each other.

Pansaari has a web page where you can sign up for email updates about the grocery's opening.

Although the word Pansaari (also spelled "Pansari") is translated by online Hindu-English dictionaries as "Grocer", a 15-minute promotional video for the new store (available here) has another explanation. A "Pansaari", the video says, is a traditional herb and spice merchant, whose store is also a sort of holistic pharmacy for practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine.

The video also details Singh's influences and inspiration for the new venture.

Some digitally-created visions of the future store's interior appearance are available here.

Update

Thanks to an email from ANC2B Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) for this additional information:
  • Pansaari has signed a lease on the space.
  • Architectural drawings are being finalized before submission to D.C. authorities.
  • Projected timetable: Construction starts in December, storing opening March.
  • Pansaari may seek a wine/beer license.
Putta adds: "In the Internet age, a liquor license moratorium does not save or promote retail business in the District. Innovative and unique business ideas are the keys to success. I welcome Ms. Singh to the neighborhood and wish her the best of luck."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Liquor License Endorsements, Protests from ANC2F

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted on a handful of liquor-license-related matters at its last regular monthly meeting on November 6. ANC2F voted to protest one liquor license application, and approve four others. It also voted to endorse a new settlement agreement with a "The American (soon to open in Blagden Alley), and against a request by The Park at 14th to terminate a settlement agreement.
A "settlement agreement" is often reached between an ANC and a liquor-serving establishment and codifies the establishment's operating hours and other details which effect the community.

The American
The roll-up garage door (right) was a bone of contention

ANC2F unanimously voted to support a settlement agreement negotiated between the ANC and Blagden Alley Entertainment, LLC., which will operate "The American" restaurant. The official address will be 1209 - 1213 10th Street NW, but the restaurant will actually be located in Blagden Alley, a historic district inside the block bordered by 9th, 10th, M, and N Streets. 

There was much community interest and some community opposition to the opening of The American. It was the subject of the September 24 SALM blog post.

Among the provisions of the settlement agreements are:
  • The restaurant will close at 1 a.m. Monday - Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • The outdoor consumption of food and drink will cease at 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Outside music will cease at 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Deliveries will be made by hand truck -- no trucks in Blagden Alley.
  • The American will discourage smoking outside the restaurant.
The text of the entire settlement agreement is available here.

There were still a few neighborhood voices protesting the restaurant up until the very last minute. One attendee accused The American of hiding a mandatory public notice on a roll-up door, so that it was not visible to the public most of the time. The notice contained information about The American's liquor license application, including times and places when members of the public could attend hearings on the matter.

I took the picture accompanying this article (above) in September. The notices can be seen on the metal garage door in the right of the picture.

Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) would look into the allegation, which would be a violation of liquor-license regulations if proved true. Fanning is chair of ANC2F's liquor-licensing affairs committee.

The Park at 14th

ANC2F voted 7 - 1 to oppose the termination of the settlement agreement between The Park at 14th nightclub (920 14th Street), an abutting neighbor, and the ANC. The lone vote against was by ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond (Commissioner for district 07).

The Park at 14th's operators appeared before the full ANC at its last meeting on October 2nd to say they wished to terminate the agreement, comparing the agreement to handcuffs. This was reported in the October 9 SALM blog post.

The Park at 14th's operators also said the agreement was unfair because many of their competitors were not compelled to have a settlement agreement. It has been informal ANC2F policy for many years not to require settlement agreements for establishments south of Massachusetts Avenue, because the area is largely non-residential. It is not clear why The Park at 14th (which is in this area) became an exception to this policy. However, this anomaly led to accusations of bias against The Park at 14th's operators at the October ANC2F meeting.

The commissioner voted to make formal policy stating that all new and existing liquor licensees, no matter where in ANC2F they were, should come before the ANC to acquire, renew, or change the conditions of their liquor license. The vote was 7 - 1, with Commissioner Raymond once again the sole "no" vote.

Vita Lounge

ANC2F voted to protest the liquor license renewal request for Vita Lounge (1318 9th Street). It was reported the establishment had 28 violations of liquor-licensing rules. The manager had been called by the ANC and told the ANC she would not come to the ANC meeting.

ANC2F's liquor-licensing affairs committee had unanimously recommended the full ANC protest Vita Lounge's application. 

Sherri Kimbel, Director of Constituent Services for D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, suggested ANC vote to make two separate protests against the Vita Lounge. One protest would concern its liquor license, the other protest would concern its cover charge, dancing, and entertainment endorsement. ANC2F followed her advice and passed two separate protest motions. 

Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06) promised to contact the operator of the Vita Lounge about the protest. The Vita Lounge is in Melcher's ANC district.

Records show Vita Lounge was fined $750 in April for a violation of its settlement agreement. Another document shows Vita Lounge failed to pay this $750 file within 30 days as ordered. The same document indicates Vita Lounge had a further outstanding fine from January.

Separate records show Vita Lounge has an appointment to appear before D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board on December 4 because it "failed to comply with the terms of its offer of compromise dated October 24, 2012".

Routine approvals

The full ANC followed the recommendation of its liquor-licensing affairs committee to approve liquor license renewals for the following establishment: Capitale (1301 K Street), Ghibellina (1610 14th Street), Number Nine (1435 P Street), and Vegas Lounge (1415 P Street). There was no debate or discussion about these applications.

ANC2F's summary of the entire meeting of November 6 is available here.