Friday, June 5, 2009

ANC Roundup: New Owners for "The Space"; Cafe Salsa Threatened with "Show Cause" Hearing; Veranda's patio

Several items of interest related to neighborhood restaurants to pass along from Wednesday evening's ANC2f meeting:

Many of you may be familiar with the ongoing saga of The Space, the trendy "private" nightclub operating in Shaw. The Space, it seems, was operating in violation to its liquor license and the voluntary agreement it had signed with its neighbors (more details can be found here). At February's ANC meeting, following a terse exchange with ANC2f chairman Charles Reed, the ANC voted to recommend that ABRA initiate a "show cause" hearing regarding the club, a step towards the revocation of the club's liquor license.

ABRA elected to proceed with a "show cause" hearing, and a date was set. However, while this was going on, some significant internal changes were occurring with the club's management that has left more questions than answers.

The Space owners, Mitchell Cox and his wife Heather Karen, put the club on the market--unbeknownst to The Space's neighbors. In April, a deal was struck by Cox to sell the club to Columbus, Ohio-based veteran's organization "American Sacrifice Foundation". In an apparent attempt to circumvent ABRA's pending hearing and the potential loss of the club's liquor license, according to comments from Chairman Reed, a deal was proposed to ABRA that would make the American Sacrifice Foundation a 10% owner of the club, with the Cox's retaining a 90% interest (and responsibility for day-to-day operations) in the club. ABRA rejected that deal completely.

Why a Columbus-based veteran's association would have an interest in owning a Washington, DC nightclub was not discussed, and the ABRA-rejected deal between the Foundation and the Cox's leads one to believe that something more is going on here than initially appears.

Whatever the relationship between the Foundation and the Cox's, at this point the ownership issue of the club remains murky. A representative of the Foundation was in attendance at the meeting and indicated that the club had been completely sold to the Foundation, and that the Cox's no longer had any interest in it. However, Mitchell Cox's name remains on the lease for the premises, and--according to the club's representative--many details remain "to be worked out."

In the meantime, ABRA has issued an order--which has been drafted but yet released--detailing how the matter will be handled. According to neighbors, The Space has been closed for the past several weeks. The Foundation representative indicated that when it reopened, it would be a completely different type of operation, something more akin to a "VFW hall". So while the future of The Space's operations is unclear, what IS clear is that whatever opens in its place will be operated under much closer scrutiny by the ANC.


Also discussed at Wednesday's meeting was recently opened 14th Street restaurant Cafe Salsa. It seems that Cafe Salsa's rear vent fan, which many neighbors have complained about, is not only obnoxious--it is a violation of the voluntary agreement signed between the ANC and the establishment.

Unfortunately, no representative of the restaurant was in attendance at the meeting, which appeared to irk Reed. Noting that the owner had indicated that "approvals were in place" to move the fan, without being in possession of any documents proving that assertion, Reed moved to send a letter to Cafe Salsa threatening them with a "show cause" hearing unless the problem was addressed. The ANC will take up the matter again at the July meeting.


One final note: during the early part of the meeting, Reed, in discussing problems with DDOT representative Chris Ziemann, cited a persistent problem of parking in the public space. To those unfamiliar with DC's arcane property ownership structure, many property owners do not in fact own the land immediately in front or to the side of their properties; this land actually resides within the public space, and parking here--or otherwise using the land--is illegal. As one particular example of this, Reed cited the existence of a parking pad and an illegally constructed concrete patio in front of Shaw restaurant Veranda.

Reed put forth a motion--passed unanimously by the ANC--to issue a letter to DDOT encouraging them to crack down on such public space violations, going so far as to say that the Veranda patio should be "shut down" if compliance is not gained.

It's worth noting that the matter is up to DDOT, not the ANC, and that while it is DDOT's responsibility to ensure that District laws are followed with regards to the use of the public space, it's unlikely that Veranda's patio would be "shut down" over this issue.

For more information about upcoming ANC2f meetings, and to view notes from past meetings, visit their website at


Mikey said...

It does seem that the issues with "The Space" are starting to improve. I do hope that the new owner will live up to his promises and voluntary agreement with the neighbors and that this business and the neighborhood can benefit from each other.

I'm sure those who supported the neighbors feel vindicated that Mitch was proven to be incapable of legally running a club to the point where both ABRA and the new owner refused the deal if Mitch was even involved.

I'm disappointed that 14th and You left out one of the funniest comments from Mr. Reed. When asked if "The Space" could have obtained a liquor license for the deck without posting placards and going to the ANC, which Mr. Jacques, Mitch's former counsel had declared; Mr. Reed said he did not think Mr. Jacques was of capable legal mind. That's just how you want your lawyer described.

Anonymous said...

Might be insightful as to the purchasing foundation ...

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed to hear about the Veranda patio being a problem. I think it's a great addition to 11 St. and whenever I am there I feel like the place attracts a pretty good cross section of the neighborhood. Plus, I'm a little tired of fighting for a space at 14th and P.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mitch's wife name was Karen?

Anonymous said...

How does an organization that raised under $3,000 in 2006 buy a club? Seems a little off.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Anon - A lot of things seemed "off" about the arrangement. This will definitely need to be fleshed out by ABRA and the ANC.

Anonymous said...

Cafe Salsa's noise is incessant and beyond irritating to those who are unfortunate enough to live behind where they decided to set up shop. They have essentially straight-up lied to the ANC Commissioner and the residents, as they promised at the May ANC meeting to fix the noise by the June meeting, and to keep the residents informed of their progress. They have done nothing, ignoring emails from the residents asking about their progress (if any), and then having the nerve to not even show up at the June meeting. I hope ABRA throws the book at them.

I would ask all of you who read this blog to not patronize their restaurant at least until they fix this problem. These people have been horrible neighbors, from the moment they started construction on their space (ignoring noise ordinances and building regulations), continuing to this day with their noise and arrogant and dismissive attitude (not to mention their trash cans in the alley, which also violate DC law).

Frankly, I hope they go out of business--soon.

JTS said...

UGH. The fact that the ANC is actually concerned about Veranda's 'illegal' patio shows how backward and anti development the commission is. This restaurant is doing great things and restoring vibrancy to an otherwise blighted corridor. I see this as another thinly-veiled attempt at stemming gentrification.

JTS said...

Just found out via the owner of Veranda that the permits for outdoor seating were issued on September 25th of last year, which also acted to remove the parking space. ANC is just looking to pick a fight.

They should talk to all of the immediate neighbors who love that place before jumping to conclusions.

14th & You said...

JTS, yes Veranda did get the permits to have outdoor seating. Reed's issue is that they poured a concrete pad on which to situate their tables and chairs. DDOT views this as a private entity altering a public space. It is important to note, however, that the ANC can't do anything to penalize Veranda; it can only send DDOT a letter asking them to require Veranda to restore the sidewalk to its original condition.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder where people are supposed to go now for a diverse crowd. I remember that being the pillar of the space lovers' argument. Where will they go to now?