City Paper Widget

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.

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