City Paper Widget

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ANC1B Liquor License Town Hall Sparsely Attended

Three of twelve Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street members attended a town hall meeting on draft liquor license standards, held at Reeves Center (14th and U Streets) last night, Tuesday, September 3.

The Commissioners in attendance were Jeremy Leffler (district 02), Ricardo Reinoso (05), and Tony Norman (10). Leffler is the chair of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee. Norman is the chair of ANC1B as a whole.

"We don't need a quorum," Norman said at the beginning of the meeting.

At its high point, there were 12 people in the audience for the meeting. Of those, four were introduced as members of the liquor licensing affairs committee that had already discussed the draft.

Leffler on the draft agreement

After Norman brought the meeting to order, Leffler noted the problems caused by excessive drinking at licensees. "We have people throwing up on our buildings, peeing on our buildings, having sex behind our buildings," he said.

Nevertheless, Leffler said, "[w]e are a pro-business and pro-liquor community."

Leffler talked about the community response at the March town meeting on the proposed U Street liquor license moratorium. "Ninety percent of the people told us they want more establishments in the community."

The standards are an attempt to preempt any charges of bias against certain categories of licensees, by demonstrating that all licensees must meet the same standards, he also said. The committee had been working on the draft for 3 or 4 months, and it had been publicly available on the site.

Leffler also talked about the areas of the draft standards that had caused greatest debate. One question: How close do you have to be to a liquor-serving establishment in order to protest it? The draft standards said 400 feet. It isn't clear how this number was arrived at.

Another point of contention was how many complaining neighbors are enough to trigger an ANC protest. The committee had settled on the term "multiple", which seemed to mean two or more. Leffler said that it wasn't fair for a single individual to be able to hold up a liquor licensee.

Norman on the process

In his remarks on liquor licensing problems, Norman said that "80 to 90 percent of the controversial stuff can be solved" by Commissioners who are "astute" and doing their jobs correctly.

Norman said he was especially concerned with the effect on the liquor licensing process on small businesses, many of whom cannot afford to hire lawyers and other representatives for a drawn-out series of hearings and meetings.

"I want to be fair to some Mom-and-Pop stores. They can't afford a long process," Norman said. "We don't want to use it as a weapon."

The public contributes

A woman testified about her new establishment near 14th Street, which recently received a liquor license after a series of objections by local residents.

"We had to pay a lot for lawyers," she said.

She thanked the committee for the work on the draft standards, and also for its role in negotiating with the unhappy neighbors.

She commented on the document's stand on converting restaurant (category CR) licenses to tavern (category CT) licenses. The draft document says these will be considered on a case-by-case basis. This is important, she said.

"We are a Mom-and-Pop that couldn't survive on a CR license," she said. "Without a large kitchen, you can't meet the goals for the CR license."

A pair of residents who have lived near the corner of 15th and Belmont Streets since 2000 also testified. They supported Norman's remarks about not creating barriers for small businesses.

"I think you're moving to a balanced document," one said.

The resident remarked that two being enough to trigger a protest seemed too small. He also asked if two people who are living together might be considered one or two protestors for purposes of this process. After some discussion, it was agreed that two people living together might better be considered as one single protestor.

The resident also said the 400-foot rule in the draft standards seemed excessive, and suggested 200 feet instead.

Leffler concluded the meeting by noting that the aim of the process was to adopt the draft standards into the ANC's bylaws, preferably before a new crop of liquor license renewal applications are presented to the ANC in the fall.

1 comment:

  1. Long time U St ResidentSeptember 10, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    The meeting was sparsely attended because no one knew about it. I didn't see any notices on the U Street list serve.