City Paper Widget

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.

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