City Paper Widget

Friday, May 23, 2014

Moving Proposed Howard Theatre Beer Garden Discussed at ANC1B Meeting

Neighbors currently objecting to a proposed beer garden in the rear parking lot of the Howard Theatre (620 T Street NW) might consider dropping their objection if the beer garden were moved to the front of the theater. The idea was tossed around at the meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 1B/U Street on May 21.

Single-family homes on Wiltberger Street
"The devil would be in the details," one of the  neighbors said.

Two neighbors, residents and homeowners on adjoining Wiltberger Street, talked to the committee about their concerns. The neighbors said their homes would be less than 500 feet from the location of the proposed beer garden.

"We already have enough problems in the area," one said.

There are seven small single-family homes on Wiltberger Street, six of which are occupied. One of the homeowners is 90 years old and homebound, one of the neighbors told the committee.

A neighbor told the committee that he works in the music business, he had helped the Howard Theatre in the past, and he "couldn't feel more excited about its success". But he said the neighbors were concerned with the way they have been treated.

"The Howard could be a better neighbor," he said. "They haven't given any indication that it [i.e., the beer garden] would be anything other than a real mess."

The neighbor reminded the committee the rear parking lot where the beer garden is proposed to take place was actually slated to be the site of a cultural and music education center -- see drawings of the proposed center on the Howard Theatre's web site here. The theater was supposed to have raised six million dollars to build the center.

"According to my last conversation with [Howard Theatre trustee] Chip Ellis, he raised zero dollars," the neighbor said.

The neighbor said the Howard Theatre has more general financial woes.

"The Howard told us that they wish to do this beer garden because they are having severe financial problems," he said.

"It's not the abutting residents' job to make sure a business is successful," a committee member said.

Liquor-licensing committee chair Nick Baumann floated the idea of moving the proposed beer garden to the Ellington Plaza area, in front of the theater on T Street. This would move the alcohol consumption, along with at least some of the noise and other problems associated with it, around the far side of theater building from their homes. The original proposal for the beer garden envisioned it being run in conjunction with activities on the T Street side of the theatre, which would be temporarily closed off and given over to displays by local artists.
The neighbors seemed willing to consider it but could not speak for the other homeowners.

Chip Ellis originally brought the beer garden idea before ANC1B's liquor-licensing affairs committee in April -- see SALM blog post of April 22. Since the border between two ANC districts runs down the center of Wiltberger Street, the neighbors have also appealed to their own ANC for support -- see SALM blog post of May 7.

There was no motion made or vote taken on this matter by the committee at this meeting, and no representatives of the Howard Theatre were present.

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