In case you decided to spend your evening doing something a bit more fun than sitting through a community meeting, here is what you missed: The ANC and Hill Center agreed on a voluntary agreement for a liquor license, displeasing a very vocal group of neighbors; the decision on supporting a fast food exemption to Chipotle has been delayed until July; Aqua al 2 will be allowed to build a one story addition to enclose their patio; Lola’s liquor license is being expanded to cover its second and third floors; and the Commission again put off adopting the recommendations from the Retail Mix Task Force.
Lola’s Barracks Bar & Grill
The Commission voted to approve the request to expand its liquor license to include its second and third floors, with two billiards tables and two shuffle board tables. The expansion increases seating capacity from 49 to 90 people. The entertainment endorsement will be dropped as the restaurant does not need or use it.
The Hill Center
The big event of the evening was definitely the request from the Hill Center for a liquor license for its summer garden and indoor space, which it intends to rent out for events as a way to ensure that it is financially sustainable as it provides programs for the neighborhood. Neighbors who live on the blocks directly around the Hill Center expressed concerns about events bringing excessive noise and too many cars, and said that the late hours on the liquor license request are excessive.
The hours requested were 7am – 12am in the outdoor space, seven days a week, and 7am – 2am Sunday-Thursday and until 3am on Friday and Saturday for the indoor space. My understanding is that the late hours are standard for liquor licenses, and the shorter hours that we see on Barracks Row are generally due to voluntary agreements reached with the ANC, and the fact that our neighborhood is not a late-night destination. The Hill Center is unlikely to have any events that last past midnight, but requested the restrictions that are standard for a liquor license, and are willing to work with the ANC on a voluntary agreement that is in line with what is agreed to by most businesses that serve alcohol.
To address parking concerns, the Hill Center will offer valet parking for all events, but neighbors argued that there are very few (if any) parking lots on the Hill that can handle 100+ cars for any large events, and many people will simply drive themselves, parking their cars in the neighborhood. There are also complaints that existing valet programs on 8th Street already break the rules and park cars on the streets instead of in their designated parking lots.
As for noise, neighbors expressed skepticism that noise from events will not be excessive, and demanded that there be no amplification of any kind for events. These neighbors were pretty adamant that they felt that alcohol and events requiring amplification have no place at a community center.
In the end, the Commission voted to approve the voluntary agreement, much to the displeasure of the neighbors (seriously, there were boos). Commissioner Oldenburg, who is the commissioner for the area in which the Hill Center is located, promised to be vigilant about addressing any and all concern raised in regards to events at the Hill Center.
I was honestly glad to see the ANC reach an agreement with the Hill Center on this, and I am sure I will get flamed in the comments from the neighbors, but I do think the ANC made the right choice. The Hill Center does not need to get their own liquor license – the caterers for events can bring their own license, which does not have to be approved by the ANC and does not have to adhere to the stricter guidelines that voluntary agreements set forth. By applying for its own liquor license, the Hill Center is taking on much more responsibility for events held on their property, and is showing a willingness to work with the ANC to be a good neighbor. Further, I have spoken with and worked with many of the people behind this project – they are all long-time neighbors who truly want to bring a something new and valuable to the neighborhood. Many of these stakeholders have been deeply involved in the Hill’s community development for decades and are not interested in turning the Old Naval Hospital, a historic landmark that they have worked tirelessly to restore, into a party house.
Aqual al 2
The Commission voted to approve a request from Aqual al 2 to add a rear one-story addition to enclose their existing back patio to allow for additional seating.
The other hot item was a request from Chipotle for a special exemption to open a location on the 400 block of 8th Street SE. There is currently a ban on new fast food restaurants in the area, although exemptions have been granted in other areas. The big issue raised was that fast food restaurants are a large contributor to the abundance of trash on that block of Barracks Row. In addition, the existing national chains have rarely contributed to neighborhood events, joined neighborhood business associations, and have been fairly unresponsive to requests to help improve trash and loitering issues on the block. The ANC asked that Chipotle would work with neighborhood groups such as Barracks Row Main Street, and asked how they would address recent criticism about their hiring processes. Deliveries and trash pickup, which need to come through the front of the restaurant, was another concern, which representatives from the chain promised to work with the neighborhood to ensure that the hours would be best in line to address neighborhood concerns.
The commission determined that there was not enough time to thoroughly discuss the concerns with Chipotle, so the decision will be held until July. In the meantime, the ANC and neighbors will meet with representatives from the restaurant to see what agreements can be reached and to allow the restaurant to work on bringing a case for why they should be granted an exemption.