Popular 14th Street restaurants Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar have tentatively reached an agreement with protestants to obtain a change in license class from "restaurant" to "tavern". The change will help both establishments escape restrictions imposed on restaurant class license holders that they viewed as financially burdensome and unnecessary (discussed in a previous post on this topic, available here).
The tentative agreement was reached on Friday between the restaurants' management and ANCs 1B and 2B, along with a group of citizen protesters led by T Street resident Ron Clayton.
The agreement should not result in a substantial change in operations for either establishment. Saint-Ex, for instance, will be required to meet a standard of a minimum 40% of gross receipts from food sales during the year. The restaurant currently derives 65% of its gross annual receipts from food sales and has no plans to disrupt kitchen operations, so meeting the 40% requirement should not prove difficult. Other requirements contained within the agreement include a cessation of outdoor food and drink service by 11 PM, and a clearing of their outdoor area by midnight.
The process to obtain approval for the change in license was not without controversy. During the past month, Elwyn Ferris--partner of ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada--was seen filming from across the street as patrons entered and exited Saint-Ex, an action which hearkens back to Ferris's controversial filming of gay patrons of former U Street nightclub Cada Vez in 2005.
Ferris's motivations for filming Saint-Ex patrons were unclear, and no evidence derived from the filming was entered against the restaurant as part of the protest. Ferris's actions also raised questions as to why an individual who was not a protestant of the application would even bother embarking upon such surveillance.
The change to a tavern license relieves Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar of certain burdensome regulations, such as requiring the presence of a chef on the premises within two hours of closing. (John Snellgrove, owner of Saint-Ex, had stated that the restaurant--which closes at 2 AM on weeknights and 3 AM on weekends--did not incur significant food sales after 10 PM and that requiring a chef to remain on site until midnight or 1 AM was a financial burden.)
The next step in the process is a status hearing before ABRA on June 10, when all parties will appear and confirm that an agreement has been reached.