City Paper Widget

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Darnell's: "The Only Option These Residents Want is Closing The Establishment"

At its regular monthly meeting on December 4, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted to reject a draft settlement agreement with Darnell's Bar (944 Florida Avenue NW), even though the settlement agreement had been drafted by an ANC1B Commissioner. The vote was 4-2 against approving the settlement agreement, with one abstention and four Commissioners absent.

944 Florida Avenue (Google Street View)
Commissioners voting in favor of the agreement: Sedrick Muhammed (district 03) and ANC1B Chair James Turner (09).

Commissioners voting against the agreement: Ricardo Reinoso (05), Mark Ranslem (08), Allyson Carpenter (10), and Zahra Jilani (12).

Abstentions: Dyana Forester (06).

Absent: Mark Morgan (01), Deborah Thomas (04), Juan Lopez (07), and E. Gail Anderson Holness (11).

In the DC liquor licensing world, settlement agreements are made between licensees and members of the community -- often ANCs, sometimes neighbors or neighborhood groups, sometimes in some combination of the groups just mentioned. This settlement agreement which was to be between the licensee and the ANC only. The most important parts of the agreement dealt with the topic of noise. They specified that external amplified music was forbidden, that windows and doors would remain closed at all times, and that trash could not be taken out between 11pm and 7am.

The agreement was "fairly consistent" with other settlement agreements, ANC Chair Turner said at the meeting.

But some neighbors of the establishment were reportedly "not happy with the settlement agreement as written", Nick Baumann, chair of ANC1B liquor-licensing affairs committee, told ANC1B.

"The only option these residents want is closing the establishment," Turner said.

Darnell's has been in a prolonged battle with its discontented neighbors -- see SALM blog post of October 22 -- over its liquor license. The status of the liquor license was further confused recently when the ownership of the establishment was "transferred" (not further explained at the meeting), so the liquor licensing placarding and protest process must start again from square one.

Prior to the ownership transfer, ANC1B tried to broker peace by negotiating the settlement agreement detailed above. Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (in whose district Darnell's is located) was designated as the Commissioner responsible. The agreement which was rejected was negotiated by Holness, but she was not at the meeting to defend it.

If the settlement agreement had passed, a group of six neighbors protesting the liquor license might have been eliminated from process. Section 25-609 of DC Code states:
In the event that an affected ANC submits a settlement agreement to the [DC Alcoholic Beverage Control] 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...
See a December 9, 2014, ABRA document (21-page .pdf) here in which the group of six neighbors is given standing to protest the liquor license application.

The neighbors were reported at the meeting to be dead set against reaching any agreement with the establishment. Opinion at the meeting was that the neighbors are working against their best interests.

"The neighbors will be unable to close this establishment," Nick Baumann said.

"The possibility of winning this protest is possibly zero," James Turner said.

No representative from Darnell's or the protesting neighbors identified themselves at the ANC meeting.

Even though the settlement agreement was rejected, ANC1B still wants a seat at the table. It was agreed at the meeting the ANC will write a letter asking that its previous protest of Darnell's liquor license be grandfathered in to the application of the new owners, so the ANC will still be part of the negotiations.

During the daytime, The Blind Dog Cafe, a coffee house, also operates at 944 Florida Avenue. The Blind Dog Cafe was not discussed at the meeting. 


  1. No reasons are listed here for the protest by 6 whiney neighbors who might be happier living in Chantilly. It is far too easy to disrupt a legitimate business in DC. These businesses are adding vibrancy and even safety to neighborhoods. If this business is being disruptive to the neighborhood it would be nice to hear about that in more detail.

  2. I love Darnell's!!