10 Nov 2010

ANC 6B Meeting Recap: More Liquor License Moratorium Talk

image uploaded by Arvid on Flickr

In case you couldn’t make last night’s ANC 6B meeting (what? You didn’t want to spend three hours in People’s Church listening to people argue about zoning regulations?!), here’s what you missed:  lots of liquor license deliberation (including a move to protest all new requests starting with Moby Dick and Nooshi), announcements about some upcoming meetings dealing with neighborhood development, and a vote to support a text amendment for changes to the Zoning Regulations in relation to the regulation of motor vehicle parking, bicycle parking, and loading.

The decision to protest all new liquor license requests came after more talk of a proposed liquor license moratorium due in part to objections raised from 9th Street residents who are concerned about plans for two new restaurants to occupy the current Chateau Animaux location.  The commission decided that a blanket protest of all new requests — instead of determining on a case-by-case basis — would be the best course of action until a solution is identified to fix the “over-saturation of restaurants” on 8th Street.  With three additional requests for new licenses expected in December, the commission felt that a decision on a consistent course of action needed to be made sooner rather than later.

A protest from the ANC does not necessarily mean that the business cannot get their liquor license, it just means that the ANC is advising the ABC board to deny it.  But a protest also means that things are drawn out through a hearing and negotiation period.  In an effort to learn more about how a moratorium would work and if it is the best solution for Barracks Row, an information-gathering meeting has been scheduled for December 6th.  Representatives from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) and representatives from areas of the city that have or have had moratoriums will be there to discuss the good, bad and ugly of such programs.  As more details are provided about the meeting, we will let you know.

Additional details from the meeting:

  • The meeting started off with a community speakout in which Tom and Barbara Riehle submitted a statement asking the ANC for greater transparency.  They submitted the statement at the last meeting and were re-submitting this month it since no response had been received.  They are asking that the location of the executive committee meeting be posted on the ANC website, that the meetings be tape recorded, and that they start keeping a record of how each member votes on issues and make the record easily available on the website.  (For the record, last night’s meeting was tape recorded although I do not know that they have the technical ability to provide the audio online.)
  • Liquor license renewal requests: the ANC is revising the voluntary agreements for all liquor licenses to reflect concerns with noise and security and voted to support the renewals of the following licenses unless the establishments failed to sign an updated voluntary agreement (the official wording is to protest unless the license is signed but that seemed alarmist when I wrote it out that way): 18th Amendment, Pour House, Capitol Lounge, Remington’s, and Trusty’s.  No one from Lola’s or Cava came to last night’s meeting or the ABC Committee meeting so the commission voted to take no position on those.
  • The commission deliberated for a while on what to do about the renewal request from Bachelor’s Mill/Back Door Pub, located at 1104 8th Street, SE.  Based on police records there have apparently been a number of service calls to that location, which the commission says indicates that something bad is happening at the establishment.  However, none of the calls were due to incidents in the bar — just outside — and the list from the police only states that there were calls but does not give context or details on the outcome of any issue.  The manager said they are happy to work with the ANC on a voluntary agreement and discuss further security measures.  The ANC is protesting the renewal request pending the signing of an updated voluntary agreement that addresses security concerns.
  • Nooshi and Mody Dick, which are both slated to open where Chateau Animaux is, faced a lot of opposition and the commission voted to protest their requests for liquor licenses.  At last week’s ABC Committee meeting residents on 9th street presented the committee with a petition of 76 signatures protesting the restaurants saying that 8th street has reached a “tipping point” and is facing an “Adams Morganization.”  An additional petition with 25 signatures asking for a moratorium on liquor licenses was also presented.  Residents say that there is too little retail and an over-saturation of bars and restaurants, causing parking and noise issues.  They also claim that the increase in restaurants and decrease in retail is hurting the value of their houses.  The owners of both restaurants say that they are open to reducing the number of seats in their restaurants and take actions to reduce the noise.  The owner of Nooshi, who is also the new owner of the building, explained that she has full intentions of moving forward with plans for both restaurants as she cannot cover the mortgage if the space stays empty or if the rent to the other business occupying the space is decreased.   This led to a long discussion among the commissioners about what steps to take in light of the requests to ask the city for a liquor license moratorium.  In the end, they decided to protest all new liquor license requests moving forward until a solution to the over-saturation of restaurants can be identified.
  • Four 6B residents — including yours truly — have been approved to serve on the Retail Mix Task Force, which will hopefully help identify solutions to the over-saturation issue.  I will gladly keep you all informed of our progress as well as all opportunities for community input, which will be a key component to this.

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43 responses to “ANC 6B Meeting Recap: More Liquor License Moratorium Talk”

  1. jason says:

    The “Adams Morganization” statement made me laugh the hardest. Barrack’s row has mostly restaurants which seem to close at midnight versus Adams Morgan which has a ton of bars that close at 3:00 am. Additionally, god forbid we have more choices for dinner instead of going to wait 1 – 2 hours at the more popular spots.

    I don’t think a lot of retail could survive due to the already high property values. I hope these 3 restaurants proceed and get approval to open up.

  2. Kathleen says:

    It was the activism of Barbara Riehle and Larry Janezich that led to the “discovery” that residents can be appointed to serve on ANC Commissions. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
    There is a 1999 ANC document on voluntary agreements that details the conditions under which a liquor license will be approved or protested. It was obviously written with an eye toward preventing a rowdy Adams-Morganization. The ANC should consider reaffirming it and adopting it as standard practice. Other neighborhoods are also implementing zoning quotas (only 25% bars/restaurants over a specified area, for instance) to foster a healthy retail mix. Why are we going straight for the big guns and asking for a moratorium? My understanding is that these are difficult to secure without a record of serious criminal offenses.
    Something that is also relevant to this discussion, but is often not discussed, is the sad state of ABRA. I hope ANC 6B reaches out to the Gray administration to lobby for new appointments to ABRA that will have the effect of reinvigorating its regulatory function. On the comment section for this blog and elsewhere I have seen a lot of support for the Fenty administration, mostly centered on education. However one feels about that particular issue, it is nevertheless the case that Fenty really gutted some of the regulatory agencies of the city by stacking them with his biking buddies. If possible, Barracks Row and other corridors in need of stronger regulation should reap some benefits from our upcoming change in mayors. After all, if I were the Mayor-elect, I would be looking for (non-costly) ways to make overwhelmingly Fenty-voting neighborhoods happy.

  3. Andrew in DC says:

    You know, if Moby Dick’s getting such opposition to a place on 8th St, we in 6D will gladly take them as part of the Boilermaker shops or similar…

  4. AKR says:

    Who goes to Moby Dick to drink anyway? I can’t wait to have good take out in our neighborhood. Imagine those delicious kebabs and great daily specials – especially Thursdays with Chicken and Currants – without having to drive over to Arlington or suffer parking in Dupont!

  5. Sebastian says:

    I’m hoping that Moby Dick and Nooshi will consider coming H street. They will be very welcome in our end of town.

  6. IMGoph says:

    claudia: what’s the text amendment that received support? is it what OP has proposed, or is this something produced by the ANC?

  7. @IMGph – they voted to support what OP proposed. They actually joked that they wanted to send a thank you letter.

  8. This is the text of the Planning and Zoning Committee report for the Zoning Regulations in relation to the regulation of motor vehicle parking, bicycle parking, and loading:

    ZC # 08-06, Comprehensive Zoning Regulations Review: Chapters B-15, B-16 & B-17
    As part of the ongoing re-write of the zoning regulations, the Office of Planning has formulated new proposals on parking, bicycle parking, and loading. The proposed parking chapter provides general rules for the provision of parking spaces, including the creation of new rules for parking maximums and requirements for car share spaces. While the proposal includes a requirement for parking minimums, the actual number of required spaces is not set out in this proposal. Instead, that requirement will be set according to zoning district (i.e.R-4, C-2-A, etc).

    The Zoning Commission considered an earlier version of these proposals in July of 2008. At that time, ANC 6B raised a number of concerns. Specifically, the ANC objected to the complete elimination of parking minimums in residential areas (on the grounds that it would lead to greater parking congestion in residential areas), the restrictive definition of the car-sharing requirements, and the creation of a transportation fund that would allow developers to buy their way out of parking requirements. This last proposal was especially worrisome as it would concentrate the potential pain of parking congestion on the most immediately impacted neighbors while providing only minimal benefit to the city as a whole.

    The new proposals have eliminated these objectionable items. In addition, the new proposal creates a workable special exception process to allow for needed flexibility in implementing the requirements.

    Since the ANC’s earlier objections have been addressed, the Committee recommends that the full ANC support the proposal.

  9. Jim says:

    Just when this neighborhood is just getting more exciting and enjoyable to live in…old people want to push it backwards.

  10. Hungry says:

    I fully support Nooshi and Moby Dick and think the ANC has this one completely wrong. Just like with the Hine school development, when tough choices are to be made they tuck their tails and either don’t vote or go with a moratorium supporting the incumbants ie Stanton Development, the current restaurants that don’t want competition etc.

    It’s rather sad to watch how their antics place entrepreneurs at risk of losing, leases, buildings etc. There is a reason DC is known as the 51st hardest place in the US to open a new business.

  11. Ken Jarboe says:

    Thanks for the mention of the 1999 ANC policy on liquor licenses. That document, which I drafted, has been the standing policy of the ANC. However, it speaks mostly to two issue that were of concern at the time — the possibility of large nightclubs opening in the neighborhood and the problem of liquor stores and sale of single beers. The guideline did not address the current concern of overconcentration (i.e. when is it too much of a good thing). One of my hopes is the ANC’s Retail Mix Task Force is that it will update the guideline to address the current concern.

    On the issue of other tools that you raise, you are exactly correct. The recent Task Force background paper the Commissioner Metzger and I drafted outlined a number of options beside the moratorium approach — specifically the zoning overlay. As I mentioned last night, there is zoning restriction on eating and drinking establishments for the area of 8th Street south of the freeway (50% of the store frontage – which is what the Zoning Commission recently adopted for the modified the ARTS district along 14th Street). I hope the new ANC will seriously consider is extending that restriction for all of Barracks Row.

  12. IMGoph says:

    claudia: thanks for clarifying. the OP recommendations have changed somewhat in the last couple weeks, and DDOT is recommending stricter maximums. we have a story about this up on GGW now.

  13. Stanton Park says:

    Do ANC’s really make decisions about stuff with data like police calls without knowing the nature or type of call? They may have called police about a store across the street being robbed, a purse snatcher on the sidewalk, a hit-and-run accident, and prostitution the alley. Should those good citizens really be punished for that? It’s like deciding whether to buy a car knowing only on its weight. Who would do that?

  14. @Stanton Park – I was surprised and a bit bothered by that too. I don’t think records of police calls are very reliable or telling at all. Lucky for the businesses, the ABRA generally looks at more solid evidence. The ANC’s vote is just a recommendation to the board, not the deciding factor and I think they just want to go on record as having concerns so that if problems do persist, they can point to these past votes.

  15. ML says:

    The decision about the vibrancy of an entire neighborhood should not be made by just the irritated neighbors. A blanket moratorium is rash and sends a signal to the creative businesspeople of the world that “we don’t want you.”. Our ANC should have enough thinking power to sort through decisions smartly. A moratorium is the easy way, not a smart way to deal with the issue.

  16. IMGoph says:

    claudia: when you said that “They actually joked that they wanted to send a thank you letter,” are you saying they wanted to send it to GGW, or to me personally? i’m a little confused, since i’ve never met these guys.

  17. Ken Jarboe says:

    IMGoph — we joked about sending a thank to the Office of Planning, since they seemed to take our suggestions about modifying the parking requirements. As the GGW story states, the new proposals include giving the BZA relatively light special exception rules. That will allow the flexibility which we all are seeking.

  18. Connie says:

    Only because of Moby Dick and Nooshi come to Barrack Row and it will turn to “Adam Morganization”, this statement make me laugh HARD too. They should spend more time at Adams Morgan before bringing a rather stu…. statement out.

  19. RBS says:


    A blanket moratorium is rash and sends a signal to the creative businesspeople of the world that “we don’t want you.”

    By “creative businesspeople,” do you mean the same folks copycat and saturate the market with essentially the same service (food and drink)?

    Can’t help but feel like Nooshi and Moby Dick are being held to any unfair standard which applied to exactly no one who preceeded them on Barracks Row. The bigger hypocrisy is that the rubber stamp only seems to apply to established business interests on CH and not newcomers.

  20. trulee pist says:

    To me, the shame of this is that ANC 6B needed to cut a board here, and they went to the tool box and pulled out a hammer.

    The 9th Street and 7th Street neighbors of Barracks Row have expressed concerns to ANC 6B for years about the impact of restaurant and bar patrons on their quiet streets. I have every confidence that neighbors and the business owners could get together, especially if ANC 6B chose to help facilitate such discussions, and resolve the issues to everyone’s satisfaction.

    The so-called Retail Mix Task Force, first appointed in March 2010, could have played a role here, but it has never met. Now Claudia is on that Task Force, and I hope it considers communications between businesses and residents a part of its mandate–that would be a particular skill Claudia brings to the Task Force.

    Instead ANC 6B chose to impose a blanket policy of protesting all new liquor licenses from now on until further notice.

    Ironically, it was made clear at this ANC 6B meeting that residents and the owners of Nooshi and Moby Dick *were* making very good progress in their informal conversations–they said so themselves, but ANC 6B ignored that testimony. ANC 6B should have encouraged and facilitated those conversations.

    Instead, ANC 6B imposed this de facto moratorium, which does not solve the problem, does not encourage further discussions (what’s the point? even if the neighbors agree, Nooshi and Moby Dick will not get the endorsement of ANC 6B now for a liquor license…) and is not very creative.

    You’d have to also add that ANC 6B’s action was precipitate and (excuse my French) a**-backwards. If the Retail Mix committee had not been moribound all year, they might have developed facts and information ANC 6B could have used to make a reasoned decision before taking this action, or better yet, finding a more effective and creative solution. Instead, ANC 6B imposed the de facto moratorium first, now the Task Force will meet for the very first time next week.

    I do believe residents and businesses near Barracks Row *are* creative enough, RBS! In fact, I think I’ll go get me a hot dog right now.

  21. beatbox says:

    Why does Moby Dick need a liquor license?

    How about this: rescind the liquor license of that over-priced, under whelming food serving, corporate feeling Chesapeake Room on the corner of 8th and E and give it to Moby Dick.

  22. Connie says:

    @trulee pist :…. meeting that residents and the owners of Nooshi and Moby Dick *were* making very good progress in their informal conversations–they said so themselves, but ANC 6B ignored that testimony. ANC 6B should have encouraged and facilitated those conversations. Wonder why the ANCs did not take the necessary measure and encourage those conversation?????

  23. rg says:

    Is parking really a problem in our neighborhood? I haven’t noticed………………………….

  24. b says:

    @Trulee Pist

    no . . . Labyrinth looks like a creative venture. They don’t appear to be facing any undue hurdles, but I’m sure any small business owner in DC could tell you stories.

    DC3 is an interesting concept, but ultimately (to quote Homer Simpson) “food goes in here”

  25. hill_guy says:

    @Ken Jarboe: There is a zoning overlay south of the freeway, and it has been there for years. You know what hasn’t been there? And still isn’t, even with the overlay? A SINGLE RETAILER!!! The only thing that’s come in down there in recent memory is a Quiznos. Such a victory for the neighborhood!

    Meanwhile, north of the freeway, there is no overlay. And in recent memory, we’ve ATTRACTED retailers. GroovyDC about four years ago, Hill’s Kitchen after that. And yes, we’ve got restaurants. Lots of them. But restaurants = foot traffic and foot traffic = retail customers.

    So, let’s recap: restricting liquor licenses south of the freeway has left the entire street a crumbling, abandoned area. NOT restricting them north of the freeway has lead to over 50 new businesses (yes, many of them restaurants) in the last decade. But extending the FAILED STRATEGY to the rest of Barracks Row is the *right* idea? Seriously? What’s the goal? To return 8th Street to the failed corridor it was in 1999?

    Either way, what the ANC did at the meeting was DISGUSTING. You want to stop approving licenses, fine. But stop approving them with all NEW applications, from the date of the decision forward. Don’t screw over your newest neighbors who just invested MILLIONS in a building foolishly thinking that the ANC would actually *do their job* and consider their application *on it’s merits*. It’s cruel to retroactively apply a bad decision to good business people.

    Shame on the ANC for denying fairness and due process to people it tricked into thinking it would follow the rules with. I’ll remember this the next time you’re up for re-election. Oh wait, you won’t be… You lost… by a landslide 🙂

  26. connie says:

    Hooray hill_guy. You know what I will start voting for a right ANC from now. They are really DISGUSTING.

  27. I do not want to defend or chastise any ANC members here or now but I do want to say this: attending these meetings in person to listen to the deliberations is really useful in determining where each commissioner really stands on the issues. At the end of the day they have to vote up or down (or abstain), and don’t get the chance to add additional thoughts for the record. My commissioner, Norm Metzger, uses his blog share additional thoughts and I strongly encourage other commissioners to do the same — it is a great way to let your neighbors know more about your position on important issues.

    I can only summarize deliberations between 10 commissioners so much — especially with limited time, space, and energy — and refrained from it here because I did not want to misrepresent some of the arguments since they went on for a LONG time. Talk to your commissioners about the issues you care about and try to attend the occasional meeting. They are long but it is really the best way to form your own informed opinions about the ANC.

  28. BlakemanDC says:

    I’ve lived on the 500 block of 9th Street for a year and half after living on the 600 block of D Street (behind the library) for 10 years, and I have to say 9th Street is cleaner, quieter and presumably safer by leagues. I appreciate all of the businesses on Barracks Row including the restaurants and eagerly anticipate each new arrival. I received the invitation to sign the petition in my mailslot several times and each time trashed it with disdain. Would more retail shops be welcome – of course, but what is being done to attract these businesses or generate an economic environment that promises sustainable viability for those considering opening on the Row? If there’s no retailer demand for a presence on the street, I welcome additional restaurants, particularly since there’s already an effective ban on after-hours clubs. (Although it would be nice to have one place to provide live music.) It seems to me that the NIMBY’s are saying “no” for the sake of saying “no.” What empirical evidence exists to support the claim that the number of restaurants on 8th Street is damaging their home value, as opposed to any other countless economic variables currently in play?

  29. Brian Pate says:

    One thing that has been lost in this discussion is that Nooshi and Moby D are going to open anyway, regardless of whether or not they get a license. The owner of the building, after all, has to pay her mortgage. If people want to ensure a vibrant business environment on 8th St, I recommend buying a kabob or sushi from the new establishments.

    I don’t think anyone would argue with the objective of increasing the retail options on 8th St (and on Cap Hill in general), but it is capricious to penalize the recent applicants simply because of the timing of their application. Further, by acting without warning, I fear we may have weakened our hand with the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and the rest of the city government in any future negotiations for a moratorium, zoning overlay, economic incentive scheme, or other solution for achieving a more diverse retail mix.

    In order to make more informed decisions, I hope the first priority of the Retail Task Force will be to gather the FACTS. What is the percentage of restaurants on 8th St? What’s the average cost per sq ft of retail and what would be considered competitive for other forms of retail? How does 8th St compare to Adams Morgan and other (apparently non-desirable areas) in terms of crime, parking, traffic and housing values? What do the impacted residents, who planned to protest the liquor license regardless of the ANCs vote, want 8th St to be? These are but a few of the important questions that need to be considered before implementing a “solution” other than letting the market sort it out.

    In defense of the sitting ANC, and my opponent whom I respect, I think they collectively saw a food train barreling down the tracks, and they cried uncle (pardon the mixed metaphors). It is not incorrect to characterize the number of pending restaurants as “a lot”, maybe more than some would desire, but again, I think the ANC sent the wrong signal to people who would invest significant sums of money in our community. Fortunately, the measure is neither permanent nor irreversible.

    The Task Force lead has asked CHAMPS to do some homework and present possible solutions to the ANC. I suggest the BID and Barracks Row Mainstreet weigh in constructively as well. And, to Claudia’s point, I hope people will get involved with this process and the numerous other significant issues facing our community (Res 13, 8th and I Barracks Replacement, etc.).



  30. Tom says:

    Looking forward to some new elected ANCs, hopefully will bring some good solution to the mess. I personally do not want to see the 8th Street of 1999! I welcome the newcomer, Nooshi and Moby Dick.

  31. Mike says:

    BRMS needs an identity – the thing that makes G-town a place to go is they have places to shop and then you can grab a bite to eat then get a drink. The ‘problem’ that is starting to develop on 8th St is that it is becoming a place to eat/drink and nothing more. It is the same thing facing the Cap Riverfront area – no retail just places to eat and drink. Hoods need identities and 8th street if left unchecked could become an Adams Morgan Light.

  32. Mike says:

    Let me re-phrase Cap Riverfront area – one place to eat/drink with a few places to eat but with places to buy booze and get coffee. The remaining ‘retail’ spots are for eating and drinking.

  33. neighbor says:

    The concern about vacant storefronts is a bit of a red herring. There are higher tax rates and a lack of rent which strongly disincentivize that. That said, I have a hard time understanding why the ANC would protest these spots, which sound great.

  34. hill_guy says:

    @neighbor: the higher tax rate you are referring to, I am guessing, is the vacant property tax rate. This is not applicable unless the *entire* building is vacant. Often, there is an upstairs office tenant or apartment tenant over these vacant storefronts, so the building is not vacant and that rate does not apply. The lack of rent is also only really a problem for landlords who can’t afford it. Doesn’t seem to be very many of those on Barracks Row.

    and @Mike and everyone else who keeps comparing us to Georgetown. G’Town has way more pedestrians every minute on every block. That’s how they can get fancy retailers to come. Barracks Row just does not have the foot traffic. The only thing that has brought foot traffic of any kind to 8th Street in the last ten years has been the restaurants. Yet, while crying about how there is no strong retail presence, the ANC and the residents are trying to stop the one thing that actually brings people needed to sustain the retail presence they whine about.

  35. BlakemanDC says:

    I’d like anyone to cite the civics textbook that uses a government body’s voted-upon position to deny any action on an economic proposal (such as a new business application) under any circumstances as an example of appropriate and responsible public policy.

  36. Connie says:

    I strongly agreed with BlakemanDC. A petition with 76 signatures did not represent all us!

  37. hill_guy says:

    I know I’d sign a petition to GRANT every license that has already been applied for right away if I ever saw one! It’s just unfair and unreasonable to change the rules in the middle of the game. Voting to oppose every license because of the “density of restaurants” (which is the same as it was when they first filed) because some of them lost their seats in the election is just wrong. Only make that change applicable for NEW applications!

  38. Larry Janezich says:

    It’s unwise and unfair to impute motives without knowing the facts. That’s why there’s a rule against it in many parliamentary venues.

  39. Cheryl 14th and A SE says:

    Looking forward to Moby Dick at Barracks Row. Love that place! Great food. I concur, one does not go to Moby Dick to drink!?!?!

  40. Anon says:

    I hope no one takes this the wrong way…I’m no Bible thumper and I certainly don’t mean to proseltyze, but the coincidence is such a temptation to mention on this post today.

    The Roman Catholic lectionary calls for the following to be read all around the world at November 14, 2010 Masses–and it’s such appropriate food for thought for our little neighborhood these days:

    “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
    Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.”


  41. 8thStreeter says:

    My roommates and I are in our 20s. Our friends love our neighborhood because of the atmosphere and restaurants. They don’t say “Yeah if only there were retail…” — no one cares about that. Except the old people. If anyone ends up designing a sign protesting the moratorium (and I have slogans in my head too), I will purchase several and give them to my friends.

  42. John says:

    Anon are you high on drugs? Everyone else, it is really quite exasperating that people are putting up such resistance towards diversifying the commercial options in our neighborhood. I could understand if this was a vigorous debate over extending the commercial district of the Hill past 8th Street to more eateries, retail, etc. If that were the case I would join the cacophony of voices against this type of sprawl. Unfortunately, that is not the case. What we are talking about is bringing additional commercial assets to the neighborhood to diversify our options and improve the neighborhood. Turning a vacant storefront into a restaurant will not ruing the historical value folks know and love about Capitol Hill

    And for the record, I hope someone does a case study on the ANC’s moratorium. The title could be “How not to act in encouraging business and positive economic development in neighborhoods.

  43. Thom says:

    @ Andrew in DC and @sebastian.

    Keep your paws off our Nooshi and Moby Dick.


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