Monday, June 29, 2009

Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar Saga FINALLY Over

We are pleased to report that local restaurants Bar Pilar and Saint-Ex have, at long last, been granted their request for a change in their liquor license after overcoming a last-minute attempt by a small group of neighborhood activists to insert themselves into the process.

Their application had been protested by both the ANC and a group of protesters. Though negotiations had at times been tense (as reported in a number of previous posts on this topic), last week it was reported that an agreement had been reached.

Shortly thereafter, Phyllis Klein, DCCA Licensing Regulation Committee chair, sent a letter to ABRA director Fred Moosally requesting to be added as a signatory to the VA. Such a move could have had significant consequences for the agreement--including sending the matter to a hearing and potentially costing the community its ability to have a say in the restaurants' operations.

According to Klein, she asked to be added because she said that she believed that five individuals were needed to sign an agreement.

"In my long history in the neighborhood, I've signed two VAs," she said, "[and] at least five neighbors signed on."

However, ABRA regulations stipulate that while a minimum of five protestants are required to protest a license application, only lead protestants need sign it. This was a sensitive aspect of Saint Ex and Bar Pilar's VAs, which involved a number of ANC and community representatives. According to former DCCA board member and Chairman Joel Lawson, Klein's actions were an unnecessary complication to finalizing the agreement, and in her capacity as Licensing Regulation Chair she should have been aware of that fact.

"She's Chair of DCCA's Licensing Regulation Committee, so she should know exactly what she's doing here," exclaimed Lawson. "The potential risk of this regulatory machination is incredible, and sadly can undermine the resident's side of things; we have to be precise and professional."

In the end, however, the ABC Board ruled that Klein had no standing to protest since her group--which included herself, her husband Juan Mayer, and ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada--lacked the requisite number of protesters (five) in which to file a protest, meaning that Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar's license change will finally go through.

Estrada's attempt to join as a protestant is particularly noteworthy, as ANC2B had reached an agreement to withdraw their protest if ANC1B was satisfied with the agreement--which they were, since the agreement was signed by commissioner Pete Raia. ANC2B also passed a binding motion stipulating that Mr. Estrada's role could only be as support to the 1B commissioner, Mr. Raia--which certainly seems to make Estrada's role in the matter questionable.

This seemingly closes a chapter in what was truly an interesting and, at times, aggravating process to secure a change in license for two popular neighborhood establishments. This has been an important process to observe however, since the city's recent crackdown on ensuring that restaurant-class license holders are meeting their food sales requirements will likely mean that a number of other establishments may soon be seeking similar changes.

40 comments:

U & 14th said...

I was going to ask what a "VA" is until I read the tags at the foot of the blog.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Klein knew exactly what she was doing. She was trying to use loopholes in the rules to delay the process as long as she could. This is what she, Ellwyn, and Ramon are good at doing.

Watch for the next step from them. To continue to push for a moratorium on 14th street, so we won't have any more "bad" businesses like Saint-Ex or Bar Pilar popping up to replace the many vacant buildings, or in their cases, former Khat gambling house and in-house brothel.

Thank you for making all this public.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please post a picture of Phyllis Klein? I have no idea what she looks like but I keep hearing horrible stories about her.

Anonymous said...

What does Dupont Circle have to do with the east side of 14th Street? Talk about meddling into other people's business. Just because us gays are moving east, doesn't mean that the folks at the Dupont organization can follow us and begin claiming Logan & Shaw as their own. haha But seriously, what the F? Why do certain people like to feel powerful by meddling in the affairs of hardworking people who are investing in our neighbhorhood. Color me confused! I never paid much attention to hyper-local politics because I never had much reason to, but I think I might start.

Joel Lawson said...

The boundaries for both the Dupont Circle ANC (ANC2B) and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) go to 14th (popularly referred to in years past as "Dupont East," but now commonly known in its own right as simply the 14th St neighborhood). In terms of citizens associations, the boundaries of the Cardozo Shaw Neighborhood Assoc (CSNA) overlap here, going slightly to the west beyond 14th.

Anytime you have a rapidly developing neighborhood overlapping two ANCs, and two neighborhood associations, you're going to have issues. Some people have floated the idea of a roundtable of some sort, or a new org. Those ideas are worth exploring, simply to enhance communication and collaboration where possible, among residents and between residents and businesses.

Joel Lawson said...

Forgot to mention: inasmuch as the east side of 14th is concerned, a business there does have impact upon people across the street. This is why ABRA entertains input, protest, etc. from those in a radius from the establishment. This is another reason you can end up, as a business, dealing with entities across an ANC or citizens assoc border.

Anonymous said...

Joel- Anon 10:20 here. Don't you think that can be viewed as a little bit dubious? I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere, and civic associations can't continue to claim cross-boundary jurisdiction as if you have an equal "claim" to an issue as a very strong, responsible neighborhood association (CSNA) within their jurisdiction. Don't you find it the least bit insulting to CSNA? I think if the tables were turned, it would irk DCCA. Just my opinion, though. I see it as something of vigilante regulatory intimidation. There's very little, if anything, democratic about the process. The requests for Saint-Ex and Pilar were so routine and not a big deal at all, yet they were faced with a spiteful attack. This is a respected restaurant and bar (equally the former as the latter, in my opinion). I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I think you need to know that there are many, many people out there that think the actions of a loud super-minority of people are capricious and borderline out-of-line. I am sure you disagree. But do know that now that many of us know what's going on behind the scenes, it won't be nearly as easy to bully businesses without consequences.

Joel Lawson said...

The boundaries are messy, if you will, because this neck of the woods used to be in Ward One, and now are in Ward 2. And you have a commercial strip that's rapidly developing (a very good thing, in my opinion, living near 14th myself). So, no, I don't agree that the boundaries are necessarily "capricious." They just are what they are (this is akin to issues that arise regarding congressional district boundaries, or other boundaries of gov't or residential interest). Getting more and more residents involved in the process is a great thing; I agree entirely with you there. If you have opinions re: how some bodies handle matters across boundaries, that's everyone's right (and my comments in the article above speak to that somewhat). But calling the boundaries hostile in and of themselves is another thing.

Ann said...

Please, do not take us into the weeds with this minutiae. By the way, I've met Phyllis Klein and find her to be one of the most reasonable, helpful members of the community. Trying to cast her otherwise and having your thugs chime-in with comments is really too bad.

Anonymous said...

Drinks on me at Cafe St. Ex and Bar Pilar tonight.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Ann, this "minutiae" is what drives decisions and affects outcomes in the neighborhood, and it's frequently not brought to light. With all due respect, I believe we need more transparency on these types of issues, not less.

If I've made a factual error in anything that is posted, I encourage people to bring it to my attention and I'll quickly make a correction. I'm more than willing to let the facts speak for themselves and allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Although it's not required, in my neighborhood we have more than one protestant sign so that the burden doesn't fall on just one person and we're protected in the event that one or more of the signers move outside the boundaries. Common sense.

TB said...

In my experience, I found Phyllis Klein had the best intentions and was very balanced in the dealings we had with ABC establishments and all five of the protestants signed on, which I appreciated.

Ann said...

Mr. 14th & U -
How this is news is news to me. Someone thought she/he could or should sign and asked the question. Big deal. I asked around, this did not delay anything. Apparently there are many groups who have more than one representative sign and it's usual and customary in some neighborhoods - it's an option. I guess summer time is slow and you need to create "news." Kinda dull.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Ann, as was noted in the post, Klein's protest did not affect the proceedings because she had no standing to protest the agreement.

I would agree that this isn't a particularly exciting or invigorating issue to discuss, but would posit that your continued commentary speaks more assertively to the "newsworthiness" of the issue than any protestations to the contrary.

Rob said...

I read on the listserve that the inquiry was to correct an error, something about directions from ABRA director.

Anonymous said...

Only a TINY strip of the west side of 14th Street NW is in ANC 2B; it runs from T Street up to U Street. The remainder of the west side of 14th Street going south is in ANC 2B/Logan Circle.

Thank God that's all.

Ann said...

Mr. 14th, I learned the facts:
Klein didn't want to protest the agreement.
She agreed with the agreement.

Ron said...

Ann,
First, I applaud you for using your name rather than "anonymous" which I equate with cowardice, in most cases. Secondly, thank you for understanding that all of the necessary signatures were already in place by the time I signed on behalf of the remaining(sane and reasonable)protestants. It was a done deal. Time to move on. St. Ex and Bar Pilar are good neighbors. Good neighbors deserve to be rewarded, while still being held to the wishes and requirements of the majority of the surrounding community. There will always be the very small, vocal, and somehow always angry, minority who do not care about the community as a whole, but rather gets bogged down in process and their determination to use Voluntary Agreements as punitive agreements. Why? Can we please move on?

Ron said...

The following is directly from the ABC Board Order of last week. It speaks for itself. Klein had no altruistic motives, just to use her husband and an oddly compliant ANC Commissioner to scuttle a perfectly negotiated and executed VA for both Bar Pilar and St. Ex. Here is the text from the Board's ruling, bringing some sanity back to the process:

"The Board notes that although three individuals, Ramon Estrada, Phyllis Klein, and Juan Mayer, seceded from the Group of Five or More Protestants represented by Ronald Clayton and are not signatories to the Voluntary Agreement, they lack standing on their own to protest this Application pursuant to D.C. Code §25-601. Thus, their Protest is, by this Order, dismissed for want of standing under this provision. The Board further notes that it received a letter regarding the designation of a different representative (Elwyn Ferris) on June 18, 2009, for certain individuals; however, that letter was received after the signed Voluntary Agreement had been submitted to the Board for approval."

FULL TEXT AVAILABLE FROM ABRA

Mr. 14th & You said...

Ann-

There is nothing in my post that indicates that Klein disagreed with the VA. I stated that she had requested to be added as a signatory. If you read otherwise, those are your own extrapolations--not mine.

Ron said...

Hi again Ann,
Sorry for any confusion. I've been writing and reading e-mails with too much haste, perhaps. To be clear, on April 27, 2009, Klein wrote to Fred Moosally on behalf of herself and her husband. The stated reason was that she did not wish for me to represent her, but rather she wished that Ramon Estrada represent her and her husband in this matter. By the time I signed the agreement, Phyllis, Alex, and Ramon had seceded from the group of 31 who I duly represented. Still, she failed to present a group of five individuals to protest these very hard fought and balanced VAs and thus had zero standing in the matter. I realize you are a good friend of Phyllis' but she did not come with me to file the paperwork, she was not there for the role call hearing, she was not their for a very difficult mediation and not there for the last status hearing. She tried an end-run around a process she knows only too well. As an attorney, I would hope you could spot the anomalies here and what is really happening.

Ann said...

Ron, Of course, you are entitled to your opinion, but there are facts that you may not be aware of, or that you are choosing to ignore. Klein supports these establishments and agreed with the VAs.
She followed ABRA director's instructions regarding representation. You were not authorized to sign for Klein or Mayer, but the VAs state otherwise. Klein was merely trying to correct this mistake by offering to sign or have her designated representative sign. ABRA's director said he had no problem with her signing. But, he later reported that the attorney for the applicant objected. The matter was presented to the Board, which, in essence, concluded that by following the ABRA director's instructions, Klein and her husband no longer had standing. Klein's actions did not delay or jeopardize the process. In fact, the results serve as a valuable caveat to protestants in future cases.

Anonymous said...

okay. we get it. thanks.
mr. 14 and his 'helpers' use any excuse to try to stir dirt. looks like now that mrs. 14 is on hiatus, lawson and clayton are his new co-writers. good-bye, mr. 14, we're sticking with dc-ist.

Joel Lawson said...

Facts are important: I'm not a co-writer or contributor to 14th & You. As neighbors, friends and fellow protestants know, I'm simply an involved neighbor, as are many others (with the Conservancy, for example, or other volunteer efforts in our city).

Hey, some people are reacting by calling me a NIMBY, while others are saying I'm a secret agent for bars. When you're hit by silly stuff like this from completely opposite viewpoints, you're probably doing something right. C'est la vie, call it the price of pragmatism. But it's sad that, too often in DC, volunteerism is met by stuff like this.

Joel Lawson said...

Ann: From your comments, you're clearly a very sharp and insightful neighbor. So allow me to posit a few quick questions that hopefully bring light to this byzantine but important matter:

If a person withdraws their sig from a lead protestant and his/her majority of protestants, that's fine, but how can they then try to assign their sig on the VA without having at least four fellow sigs for a new group of protestants? And, how could that withdrawal person then want to be on the VA regardless? If a person without standing signs a VA, does that not hand something to opposing counsel, should they wish to use it?

This sheds light, I hope, on both the Board's order, and on my quotes in the original post. The resident side of these things cannot afford a mistake like that.

Beyond that, anyone trying to blame Fred, esp. without backing documentation, is sad in my opinion.

Ann said...

For Joel Lawson:

The following distinctions and chronology should help you to understand the faulty premise in your post and what actually happened.

Authorizing a representative does not mean that one withdraws from the protest group.

ABRA director instructed that protestants can change authorization at any time. Apparently, the director did not intend to disenfranchise protestants who followed his advice.

The VAs were drawn up with representation mistakes, and in discussions with ABRA Director to remedy the errors, Ms. Klein offered to sign. The ABRA director thought it was a viable solution, until the attorney for the applicant disagree. The matter was then brought to the Board.

Ms. Klein acted in good faith, offering (not demanding) to sign the agreements to expedite correction. It was AFTER her offer that the Board ruled on the standing status.

For substantiation, you can contact ABRA's director.

Joel Lawson said...

Ann: I'm sorry, but I have made inquiries, and your understanding that "Authorizing a representative does not mean that one withdraws from the protest group" simply does not comport with the very clear ABRA procedures, nor with documentation.

I have in my possession an email from Ms. Klein to ABRA, dated way back on April 27, which states: "please change our authorized representative for the above referenced protest cases to Ramon Estrada," and "we designate only Ramon Estrada to act on our behalf."

That is a clear change of representation, a withdrawal from representation by Ron Clayton, and his majority of protestants, and to ANC Commissioner Estrada.

That change (or withdrawal) is completely in Ms. Klein's right, and it happens in these things. But again, Commissioner Estrada could only act on behalf of ANC2B under his commission's formal motion--if 1B signed, 2B deferred.

Perhaps Ms. Klein was unaware of that ANC motion. But again, as chair of a citizens assoc.'s licensing and regulatory cmte., Ms. Klein must have known that she could only seek to sign the VA as one of Ron's protestants, or as a new group of five or more, or simply allow Commissioner Estrada to represent her.

Signing the VA as herself, or representing less than five persons, or on behalf of 2B, would not have been in accordance with the process. And a non-standing signature could have been used by opposing counsel.

The ABRA ruling against Ms. Klein signing is clear in this regard.

Sean said...

Mr. Lawson, I read your quotes in Mr. 14th's post. Your continued attention to this site is admirable. And, I, for one, would appreciate it if you would be more "precise and professional" and consider researching before posting recriminations. Your comments make you appear to be prejudicial.

Ann said...

Mr. Lawson,

You are free to confirm what I've reported with the ABRA director, if you care to.

You can also refer to the original protest letter, in which all thirty-one of the protestants designated Mr. Estrada as one of their authorized representatives. Typically, Mr. Estrada not only represents ANC2B in these matters, but also his single member constituents.

To protest, one must sign a protest letter with five or more (unless located within a moratorium zone).
Klein signed the protest letter with over thirty neighbors. After her standing was established, and according to ABRA Director's instructions, she clarified her representative by email.

For your reference, the following is from ABRA's website:

May a person represent my concerns during protest proceedings?

Someone may represent your concerns during a protest proceeding. However, the ABC Board requires that all parties of record attend the roll call hearing. Afterwards, a designated representative may be appointed by the protestant. The designation must be in writing, must authorize the designee to represent his or her case, and must be available for the ABC Board's review at the time of the hearing.

Ron said...

Hi Again Ann,
I just had a chance to read your last post and I can see how you would come to the conclusions that you have given the information that you have read and been given. The following might clear a few things up.

I wasn't ignoring the fact that Klein thought she could sign the VA. One important fact that hasn't come out is the manner in which Klein chose to withdraw my authorization to represent her and her husband. It is a fact that both Klein and Mayer signed a letter of protest on April 3, 2009, authorizing me represent them "in all matters related to this case." On April 27, 2009, Klein sent an e-mail to Fred Moosally and to Ramon Estrada ONLY stating that she now wanted Ramon to represent her. She did not bother to inform me, nor did anyone else. I have a signed legal document authorizing me to represent the two in question, which holds much more weight than an e-mail I did not receive. Fred Moosally sent me the e-mail only a few days ago. I had no knowledge of this e-mail or its message until then.

Also, Klein had an obligation to inform opposing counsel, which she did not do. This is noted in a letter sent to Fred Moosally on June 18, by Andrew Kline, opposing Counsel "To our knowledge, the authority given to Mr. Clayton in that petition had never been revoked . . . If there had been a revocation, it was not served upon the Licensee as required by the provisions of 23 D.C.M.R. Section 1703" The Board regularly reminds parties of the rule that documents filed with the Board must be served on the other parties.

Therefore, I legally signed the VAs for Klein and Mayer on June 16 as their designated and authorized representative.

Joel Lawson said...

Sean: If there is anything imprecise in the research or document referrals I have made, I would be happy to be corrected. I agree everyone should stick to statements of facts and concerns, which are not recriminations.

Ann said...

Sorry, Mr. Clayton, Ms. Klein followed ABRA Director's instructions fully to clarify her authorization. The original letter of protest, signed by all of the protestants, designated EITHER you or Mr. Estrada and she chose Estrada. ABRA's director was fully aware of this change and the email was part of the official file. The Board's order recognizes and rests on her email notification. Again, you are entitled to your views and if you find it necessary to continue to post, that is your prerogative.
Frankly, we seem to have reached the point of redundancy.

Joel Lawson said...

Moving forward, a great deal of this confusion can be avoided by residents undertaking a protest, and Commissioner Estrada undertaking efforts on behalf of the ANC's own protest. And it's always a good thing that many more residents are informed and getting involved.

Sean said...

Mr. Lawson,

I am capable of discerning the difference between opinions and facts, and recognizing spin.

...OMG, a protestant agreed with the terms of a VA and wanted to sign!!!! The end is near!!! Machinations!!! Horror!!!

I simply think you should take your own advice to be precise and professional rather than trying to discredit and accuse with exaggerated, exclamations. Just my opinion.

Joel Lawson said...

And those exaggerations are what, precisely? Multiple exclamation marks usually constitute such.

Anonymous said...

My job is too demanding for me to get involved in protests or all of these fine details. I voted to re-elect Mr. Estrada to represent me and I have confidence in him. The ANC Commissioners are our first line representatives.

Chas said...

I, too, trust Estrada. Based on what I've read here, Ronald Clayton must not communicate very effectively with those he claims to represent.

Anonymous said...

Lots of drinks on me at Cafe St. Ex and Bar Pilar tonight!

Ron said...

Thanks Ann. Despite our varying interpretations of some rather ambiguous regulations related to this matter, your writing has been informative, accessible and useful. I appreciate your time in sharing views, as I hope did others.