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
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to protest the application by recently-opened Bar
|Bar Charley replaced a Cajun restaurant.|
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
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
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.
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 servea 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 “Theapplicant 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.”