City Paper Widget

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shaw ANC Protest for Joe Englert Bar near Dacha Beer Garden

Long-time DC restauranteur Joe Englert got a frosty reception for his proposed new tavern, Trinity, on Tuesday, April 7. Englert appeared before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6E/Shaw to ask for endorsement of a new tavern license for the proposed operation at 1606 7th Street NW, two doors up from Dacha Beer Garden at 7th and Q Streets.

Blue building center right is 1606 7th Street
Englert told the ANC the tavern would be a "barbeque concept", serving from a food truck parked on the patio behind the main building. There will be DJs inside the establishment, so Englert is seeking an entertainment endorsement on his liquor license.

According a Notice of Public Hearing by DC's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), available here, Trinity will have a "[f]ull menu with ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and salads". It will have an inside capacity of 199 and outdoor space with capacity of 68. Trinity seeks to keep the interior portion of its operation open until 1:45am Sunday - Thursday, and 2:45am Friday and Saturday. The exterior portion would be allowed to stay open until 2am seven days a week, according to the application, but liquor service outside would end before midnight Sunday to Thursday, and just before 2am weekends.  Live entertainment would be permitted until 10pm, seven days a week.

Back-to-back with people's homes

1606 7th Street is back-to-back with a series of row houses that face 8th Street. They would be separated from Trinity's outside service by a narrow alley. ANC6E Commissioner Alex Padro (district 01) noted "significant concern" from these neighbors. The proposed tavern would be in Padro's district.

"We have families that live 10 feet from the back" of the proposed establishment, Padro said.

"The inside part, I welcome. It's the outside part that bothers me," one neighbor said.

"You need to make choices about what this is going to be," the same neighbor said.

"For us, it's a quality of life issue," said a representative of the Central Shaw Neighborhood Association. "Outdoor residential drinking space is a non-starter for some neighbors."

"We do largely welcome development in the neighborhood," she added.

Slightly odd ANC conversation

The conversation took some strange turns. Commissioner Rachelle Nigro (district 04) asked, if this application failed, and the next applicant wanted to open a "titty bar", would the neighbors object to that also? Nigro said that the neighbors could not "pick and choose" what type of businesses they liked in the neighborhood.

Other Commissioners openly disagreed.

Commissioner Kevin Chapple (district 02) said: "I can completely sympathize. You have a right to pick and choose."

Commissioner Frank Wiggins (district 03) also expressed solidarity: "I hear the cry of the neighbors."

Padro said he had served on ANCs for 15 years, and had never protested a liquor license. In this case, however, Padro (also chair of ANC6E's liquor-licensing affairs committee) said talks with Englert about the establishment and "what were the deal breakers" yielded no satisfactory conclusion.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room was the nearby Dacha Beer Garden (1600 7th Street). This establishment was mentioned in connection with the noise issue several times. When a speaker did so, the speaker usually felt it necessary to acknowledge the present applicant was not the Dacha Beer Garden, and any complaints about the behavior of the patrons of the Dacha Beer had no bearing on this application. Yet Dacha Beer Garden still seemed to be on everybody's mind.

Padro said when Dacha applied for a liquor license, they claimed their capacity was 129, but often "in reality" there were 400 people there.

"The noise is unbearable," Padro said.

Nigro noted some neighbors who had been before the ANC in support of Dacha a few years ago were now emailing and appearing against this bar's liquor license application.

Englert was present during the discussion but did not speak very often. He mentioned there was "many ways to attack noise", but he did not make any specific suggestions or promises.

Vote and next steps

The ANC voted to protest the liquor license application. The vote to protest was five to one -- the dissenting vote was from ANC6E Chair Marge Maceda (Commissioner for district 05).

The petition of protest by the ANC (and the neighbors, if they choose to act separately) have to be filed by April 27. Trinity's next scheduled ABRA hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 11, at ABRA's offices on the 4th floor of the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

Englert has opened over a dozen bars in the District. He is perhaps best known for many establishments on H Street NE, including The Rock and Roll Hotel and H Street Country Club. Englert operations in the Shaw/U Street area include DC9 and the now-closed State of the Union.

Read a 2012 Washingtonian magazine portrait of Englert here, which includes (near the end) some information about Englert's relations with ANCs on H Street NE.

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

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