Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hank's: Analysis of a Liquor License Protest

Frequently, on here and elsewhere, we delve into discussions about liquor licenses; specifically, the frequent protests that are brought by ANCs and other citizens groups in an attempt to regulate the licensee through the voluntary agreement process. In the majority of instances, both the licensee and the protesters are able to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both.

There are instances, unfortunately, when an agreement cannot be reached amicably. Sometimes, this is the result of one party believing that it will prevail in a hearing before the ABRA Board. In other instances, it is simply a case of a group of protesters abusing the protest process. Such is the case with the current protest of expansion plans by Hank's Oyster Bar.

The timing here is interesting, as the status of Hank's liquor license will be addressed at an upcoming meeting, on October 13, at ABRA (scroll to the bottom of the page for information on Hank's).

First, a bit of background. Hank's opened in their location at 17th and Q streets in 2005, the recipient of a single license expansion of the liquor license moratorium in place along 17th Street. The license was protested furiously--not by the Dupont Circle ANC, but rather by a group of residents who live near the intersection of 17th and Q streets. Nevertheless, Hank's prevailed, and chef-owner Jamie Leeds' establishment was quickly cemented as one of the area's most popular eateries.

Fast forward to 2010, and Leeds announces plans to expand to the adjacent space and add 20 outdoor seats. Fans of Hank's applauded the long overdue move, which well help alleviate some of the long waits for those attempting to dine in the crowded space. However, some of the residents, many of whom were among the original protesters, were not amused. And, in spite of the fact that ANC2B voted not to protest the expansion plans, nor to protest Leeds' request to vacate her VA (on the grounds that her license includes all of the stipulations in the VA, making it redundant), they filed a protest anyway.

At this point in other posts, I might say a few words about the dangers of abusing the liquor license protest process, or about the reflexive opposition that seems to rear up from time to time around here. Instead, I'm going to let the protesters' words speak for themselves, so that readers can see--and judge for themselves--the merit of the arguments made by the protesters. As ANC2B commissioner Jack Jacobson noted recently, this seems to be a case of a group of protesters singling out a business without cause. Not only that, I might add, but the protest they have filed is completely baseless. Thus, below, I'm providing a point-by-point analysis of the specific issues raised by the protesters in their protest which was filed with ABRA on July 26.

First, a word about the protesters. The two lead protesters, David Mallof and Alexis Rieffel, do not live along the same block as Hank's. In fact, none of the protesters do. Most live along the 1700 block of Q, with some living as far south as 17th and Massachusetts. Why someone who lives at 17th and Massachusetts would be provoked to such a degree of outrage over an additional 20 outdoor seats at a restaurant 2 1/2 blocks away, I can only imagine. Anyway, onto the Re: line:

Re: Protest of Substantial Change Request to Dramatically Increase Seating and Use of Public Space within the Already Overconcentrated East Dupont Moratorium Zone at the Hyperconcentrated (sic) Street Corner of 17th and Q Streets, NW

Note the creative use of adjectives and adverbs: "dramatically increase," "overconcentrated" "hyperconcentrated". The intersection of 17th and Q features Trio, Hank's, the Java House coffee shop, and Floriana, along with a valet service and a residence. "Hyperconcentrated" doesn't mean what it used to, I guess. Moving on...

1. THE REQUEST IS PROHIBITED BY AN IN-FORCE, VALID AND CONTRACTUAL VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT

Actually, Hank's request is not "prohibited" by the Agreement, it simply isn't included in it. Hence Leeds' request to amend her license to include the adjacent building and outdoor seating area.

2. THE BOARD LACKS AUTHORITY TO FURTHER INCREASE MYRIAD CONCENTRATION AND ITS MYRIAD IMPACTS IN THE FACE OF RECENT FINDING OF OVERCONCENTRATION THAT RESULTED IN RENEWAL OF THE EAST DUPONT EMERGENCY MORATORIUM

There's a lot to parse through in this one, not the least of which is the use of a phrase--"myriad concentration"--for which I am unable to discern a definition. No matter. The gyst of what is being argued here is that because the 17th Street "emergency" moratorium is in place (now going on 19 years), by default ABRA should not approve Hank's expansion plans, because it would seem to be in contradiction to the purpose of the moratorium. There is one small problem with this position: it ignores the ruling by ABRA on the moratorium, published just this past May. Remember, Hank's is seeking to expand its operations, not obtain a new license. From ABRA's ruling:

"Public comment received by the Board reflects that there is a need for more than the two (2) lateral expansion applications requested by ANC 2B. Specifically, there are establishments with significant neighborhood support, who would not be able to file if lateral expansions were limited to only two (2) applications. As such, the Board now finds that it is appropriate to grant four (4) lateral expansions, rather than the two (2) that were originally requested."

In other words, what Leeds is requesting is entirely permissible under the adoption of the moratorium by ABRA earlier this year.

A. We appreciate the ambiance, diversity and positive externalities created by the ABC licensing, as well as the community benefits of allowing responsible licensees the use of scarce public space for ancillary sidewalk cafes.

The emphasis on the phrase "public space" was their's, ostensibly to remind us that Hank's is seeking a permit to place tables and chairs in a space that resides within the public domain. Which is true. But this isn't so much a legal argument against Hank's as it is a fantasy devoid of 17th Street reality--the space Leeds is seeking to expand into is vacant, and has been for years. The "public space" Hank's would be utilizing is not currently being used by anyone, nor are there any plans for it to be used by anyone. Basically, this is an argument that the neighborhood is better served with a vacant property than by allowing a popular--and well-run--neighborhood eatery to expand into it. How many people are honestly buying that argument?

B. It is because of the overcontration's negative impacts that moratoriums are critically important and specifically authorized under Title 25.

This is another appeal to the intention of the moratorium. But, as we've already demonstrated, the intention of the moratorium was to allow the expansion of up to four licensees--precisely what Leeds is seeking to do.

As to these perceived "negative impacts," the protesters go on to list things like "property values," "peace, order and quiet," and the ever-mysterious "and more." The mind reels at what "more" negative impacts Hank's could be imposing upon the Dupont citizenry. The issue of property values is a complete non-starter, as anyone who has watched property values climb over the last decade would attest. (In fact, I'm more inclined to believe the counter-argument: that property values are enhanced by the proximity to establishments such as Hank's.) And to the "peace, order and quiet" argument, as Commissioner Jacobson noted, he represents the residents who live directly across the street from Hank's, and has never once received a complaint about the restaurant.

C. The Board has never found that any of these impacts are in remission, which would be the only reason to allow any expansion of impacts, seats or licenses.

Yet again, it should be pointed out that the moratorium allows for the expansion of an establishment such as Hank's--there is no burden upon the licensee to show that "peace, order and quiet" has been somehow recaptured to a greater degree than it was five years ago.

D. Further, the Board had no data whatsoever in hand, rather pro or con, regarding property values.

To this, we are obliged to point out that whether the Board possessed any evidence of a decline or rise in property values is irrelevant to the question of whether Hank's expansion plans are appropriate and within the bounds of the law. There is no obligation for a licensee to provide an enhancement of property values, nor is there a requirement for the Board to consider such a thing when the moratorium stipulates that expansion is permitted. The protesters, for their part, are unable to present any data that their property values have declined, and they have certainly been unable to present data to show that their property values declined as a result of liquor licensees such as Hank's. (For what it is worth, median home sales prices in Hank's zip code have increased by 15% since 2005--peaking at a rise of 42.8% in 2007.)

Any further expansion of seats in the moratorium zone cannot be consistent with existing laws, or compatible with the broad interests of the District of Columbia, in the absence of factual, empirical, quantitative evidence that it will not result in greater overconcentration or yield some compensating benefits to nearby residents.

Notice the slippery-slope tactics employed here: Hank's request for an additional 20 outdoor seats is now a matter of sufficient concern for residents throughout the entire District! Mr. Mallof already presented a similar version of this argument when he, along with another Q Street resident, urged ABRA to reconsider its position on expansion--specifically, he requested that ABRA limit expansions to interior spaces only, which ABRA declined to do. And again, there is no burden that the licensee present "compensating benefits" to nearby residents, although it could be argued that providing additional seating at one of the brightest restaurant stars amongst an otherwise lackluster corridor constitutes a "compensating benefit".

In the face of repeated findings of overconcentration, we question whether the Board has the authority to grant an increase in net ABC seats in the face of the obvious negative externalities.

To begin, the Board does indeed have that authority--for if not them, then who? Secondly, the existing rule governing the moratorium permits just such an expansion. And it is certainly a matter of opinion as to whether the so-called negative externalities are indeed "obvious".

G. Title 25 makes it clear that the greatest weight must always be accorded to the most proximately affected and impacted residents, including abutting commercial property owners.

On this we agree, and it makes the absence of any of Hank's immediate neighbors--nay, any residents or businesses along Hank's entire block--from the protest all the more interesting.

If the tone here sounds harsh, it's only because I view this as a clear example of a flat-out abuse of the protest process. Leeds has implied in the past that, if things get too difficult for her in Dupont, she'll pack up and head elsewhere. I would not take that as an idle threat.

The thing to keep in mind here is that these protests, no matter how frivolous, have very real consequences for the business owners, who must employ legal counsel, use up vast amounts of time, and defer operating plans until the protest can be resolved. This case is particularly egregious, as it includes protesters who have protested Hank's before, largely regarding the same issues. If the issues were not valid before, what makes them valid now? And why must Leeds, and similar business owners, face down protests such as this time and again?

These are questions that should be asked, as not only can situations like this adversely impact good local business owners, but it also threatens the ability of residents to reasonably address legitimate issues with the business operating in their neighborhood. In this instance, Hank's immediate neighbors may in fact be well-served by the execution of a reasonable, balanced voluntary agreement--only the behavior of the protestants in this instance has been so abysmal, it's no wonder Leeds doesn't want any kind of agreement with them.

Ultimately, there are few who believe that Hank's expansion plans will not be approved, largely because they are reasonable and within the bounds of the law. But that simply makes us question the purpose of engaging in this protest. District law, rightly or wrongly, permits it--but to what end?

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice summary. I don't get these people? Why protest something that has little effect on your life other than to offer good food. Looks like they have an axe to grind to me.

IMGoph said...

awesome. well-written, surgical take-down of their points.

monkeyrotica said...

Maybe they're really, really, REALLY allergic to seafood.

Anonymous said...

Very nice summary of this. I don't understand why these people who are so opposed to any new development continue to live in the city. There are great suburban communities with large empty strip malls and closed garage doors lining the streets that they would fit in with so well.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with other comments.

If someone wants to live in area with total peace and quiet, there's an answer to that problem. It's called Reston.

I chose to live in the city BECAUSE I want to be able to walk to restaurants and cafes. I understand that there is noise associated with restaurants, but that's the trade-off, and one I am willing to accept.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis of an important issue. Honestly don't know what is motivating the protestants. Seems like it is a personal attack rather than one guided by any interest in preserving neighborhood tranquility. I think they used all the inflated adjectives because the reasoning does not have strong footing.

Anonymous said...

The angle involving property value impact is interesting.

If these residents are concerned about the value of their property declining, then they would likely expect, or at least feel entitled to, compensation from Hank's if their property value fell. The fall in property value would be attributed to Hank's, and as such, Hank's would pay the value of the decrease as compensation.

But, if that line of thinking is allowed, any increase in the value of the same set of properties should also be attributable to Hank's, and the property owners should compensate Hank's for the value Hank's created for properties other than itself.

It seems like compensating neighbors for decreases in property value attributes responsibility for these changes to Hank's. However, this attribution cannot be unidirectional -- neighbors should also surrender property value increases to Hank's. To do otherwise would be internally inconsistent. And because the scenario in which neighbors write checks to Hank's is patently ridiculous, the idea of attributing changes in property value to a single establishment is fairly ridiculous itself.

Poorly conceived alternate theory sure to be wrong: the protesters want Hank's to pay them, on the sly, to stop protesting.

Anonymous said...

Voluntary agreements cease to be voluntary when you can't get a license without them. I don't understand whey this seemingly legislative power is granted to neighborhoods.

Rick Rosendall said...

Kudos for this excellent analysis. And thanks for staying with this aggravating stuff. I blogged about your piece here:
http://tinyurl.com/hanksdc

Anonymous said...

I did not protest, but I do live close by. The author does not point out that the space she is expanding into was just changed from Residential to Commercial and immediately butts up against residential property. As such I think people are reasonable to want to ensure that the outdoor seating closes at a reasonable hour on weeknights and a bit later on weekends......The normal liquor regs don't cover this. ....And Jamie wants to get rid of this stipulation.

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum said...

This is a very thorough analysis, well done.

I'd like to point out 3 additional things:

(1) Not only did the ANC 2B take no action on Hanks two applications (to amend/vacate the VA and for substantial change to expand), we actively supported the expansion in two ways. First, we opened the door to lateral expansions by asking for at least 2 lateral expansions in the most recent renewal of the Moratorium. Second, we voted to SUPPORT the zoning change at the adjacent lot from commercial to residential.

(3) Commissioner Victor Wexler deserves recognition for all the work he did on this issue. Comm'r Wexler represents the district (ANC 2B05) that includes Hanks. He had meetings with the establishment (and its attorneys) and with the VA signatories, in addition to talking to neighbors to gauge how the neighborhood felt about these issues. After his careful research and discussions, he recommended that we (the ANC) take no action. We followed his recommendation.

(2) The earlier comment by a reader that outdoor seating hours will not be limited is wholly inaccurate. Hanks recently renewed its existing license, and the closing hours of 11pm/12am for the sidewalk cafe are part of the renewed license. The request for expansion does not alter these license hours. Therefore, the new sidewalk cafe will continue to have the same hours, by virtue of the license. This is one of the main reasons we felt it was not necessary to take any action on the substantial change request.

-- Will Stephens, Chair, Dupont ANC

Jamie said...

If there's one thing you can depend on in the greater Dupont Circle area, it's that your little bit of progress will have to be done over the shrieks of "you kids get off my lawn!"

This is a nice takedown. I've never understood why people put so much effort into foiling the plans of others that have no impact on them, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Anonymous said...

These protestors are probably the inlaws of those who are part of the Historical/Hysterical Preservation cabal. They should all get together and sing the Groucho Marx MONKEY BUSINESS song...Whatever it is, I'm Against it!

Hillman said...

Yeppers. If you moved to the residential blocks near there any time in the past, say, 30 years, you had to know there would be businesses opening up very near you.

What with you moving to a residential block adjacent to a commercial block.

People live in Dupont and NW because of the restaurants, nightlife, and neighborhood vitality.

Not in spite of it.

I dont' see much specificity in these complaints (if I'm missing that, somebody please just point it out to me). If Hanks was, say, dumping their trash on these people's property, or their patrons were somehow causing an undue ruckus, I could see the protest.

But the protesters seem to be protesting the very idea of a restaurant/bar even existing there.

And that seems pretty much the opposite of what city life is supposed to offer.

Ron said...

Thank you for taking the time to follow and analyze the situation. What a great service to the community. Well done!

dcvoterboy said...

This is a great and detailed summary and is a great example of why the District's alcohol and licensing laws need to be reviewed and updated.

Time and again we hear the cry, "We want local businesses! We want 'Mom and Pop' shops!" What is Hanks' other than a locally-owned (and successful) business?

Too many small business owners are being put through a divisive and unproductive ABC licensing process.

It would be great if the Councilmember -- who has had oversight of alcohol laws (for many years now) -- would take action on this important issue and fix a broken process, instead of keeping the burden on neighbors and business owners.

Brianne said...

Well done ANC2B and Mr. 14th and You. A similar (in spirit, not in quite such depth and with as much audicity) protest took place in 1B recently and the ABC board shot down the protest as having no merit.

It's all going in my book someday. It'll be called "Why do people move into neighborhoods they hate and other stories of local government."

Brianne (ANC1B)

Anonymous said...

In some ways, I'm glad they have chosen Hanks to protest. A lot of baseless protests in our neighborhood involve (lets face it) some kind of sketchy restaurants and bars. But Hanks is a good neighbor and a great contributor to the community as a whole. It has really exposed the whole protest process as what it is: overly paranoid residents with vastly too much time on their hands and a resistance to change.

Lance said...

The posts on here illustrate why the greatest aspect a democracy isn't 'majority rule' but rather 'the protection of individual rights'.

Yeah, sure we'd all like more restaurants and bars and other retail within an easy walk from our homes ... as long as they don't impinge on the quality of our lives. And since only a few individuals living near the proposed expansion will be directly affected, then why not force our needs and desires on them? After all, it's a win win for us and the business owner who is succeeding at demonizing a bunch of neighbors who are ... simply demanding that their rights be respected.

DC ABRA law (the laws governing who can get a liquor license and under what circumstances) give those 'few' neighbors ... who also happen to be the 'most affected' neighbors a greater weight in determining under what circumstances an expansion can happen, if it can happen at all. And that is a good thing. That is ''the protection of individual rights' in action. That means that all of us who would otherwise benefit from the increased services can't just ram it down their throats leaving them to suffer the increased noise and foot traffic ... and crush on parking ... etc etc.

The law operates such that both the protestants and the business requesting the license should work out an agreement that is amenable to both parties. And under normal circumstances the ANC would be the 'honest broker' ensuring that such an agreement were worked out. However, in this case you have none of that.

You've got parties on both sides of the issue which are refusing to negotiate toward the common good ... And you have an ANC which has vacated its expected role as 'honest broker' and instead involves itself directly into the melee by taking sides.

Add to that the fact that in order to get its original license Hank's agreed specifically, within the Voluntary Agreement to NOT ask for an expansion (or any other changes to the agreement) without the permission of the 'other side' to the Voluntary Agreement, and you have a mess.

It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this ... where no party is being reasonable and the ANC has absolved itself of its responsibilities and so improperly taken sides.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if you could do a similar analysis on the barriers to having live music that the Ghana cafe is trying to push through. I can understand having a conversation about the concerns, but i wish we could find a way to move forward and continue to bring new life to the are in between p and Thomas circle on 14th.

Lance said...

Similarly, an analysis about the rooftop deck which Nazareth 14 is proposing would be interesting. I suspect IF you use the same criteria for that analysis as you did for Hank's, you will reach same conclusion ... I.e., neighborhood interests outweigh interests of affected neighbors ...

Lance said...

*Maza 14

Mr. 14th & You said...

Lance-

The point to all of this is that the protesters haven't demonstrated that they have been harmed by Hank's--either by its current existence, nor by the "threat" of its expansion. Additionally, the protestants aren't those "most affected" by Hank's proposed expansion--that would be Hank's immediate neighbors, none of whom have protested the expansion. It's telling that the closest protestant is over 1/2 a block away, and one is nearly three blocks away.

This isn't an issue about respect of area residents or of legitimate concerns about a restaurant's operations--this is simply reactionary NIMBYism at its worst.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"IF you use the same criteria for that analysis as you did for Hank's, you will reach same conclusion ... I.e., neighborhood interests outweigh interests of affected neighbors ..."

Negative, Lance. I see several issues with Masa's proposed rooftop deck--later hours, the lack of any current rooftop seating, the potential for immediately abutting property owners and residents to protest, the existence of an ANC protest against the establishment, the lack of a regulatory stipulation that expressly permits Masa to expand its operations--that do not correlate with Hank's.

And perhaps Masa's rooftop deck isn't a problem and should be approved? I can't say. But these reactionary, opposition-to-everything protests need to stop.

When the protestants to Hank's can show me that they're being adversely impacted by the proposed expansion, get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Lance is just flat out wrong on one point: there is NOTHING in the law about working out an agreement and parties are not required to negotiate one. That is a fiction perpetuated by NIMBYs all over the District.
Instead, there is a hearing process, and the Board makes decisions after a public hearing. Now, like a lawsuit in court, the parties can, BUT ARE NOT REQUIRED TO, enter into a settlement agreement, which has somehow come to be called a "voluntary agreement". And, contrary to Lance's understanding, the ANC has no role in the case unless they protest.
According to Jamie Leed's letter in the Current, her original "voluntary" agreement came about because the ABC Board, in those days, would not schedule hearings, preferring to avoid making decisions. So she had two choices: submit and sign the "voluntary" agreement; or go broke waiting for a hearing that never came. So whatever she agreed to originally, it seems pretty clear she did so under duress.
It all seems pretty simple, really. Have a competent ABC Board, speed up the process, let parties be heard, make quick decisions and have effective enforcement to police violators. But abolish these so called "voluntary agreements" as they make it too easy for a small number of people to hijack the process.

Anonymous said...

I honestly do have to wonder exactly how many of the "stop whining, let's do it" posters actually live 2-3 doors down or across the street from the eatery in question.
Sure, it's nice to walk 2-4 blocks to get seafood...sure it will be even better if the place is bigger and you won't have to wait as long.

Everybody LOVES expansion until it's proposed next door to you.

...at least you don't have restaurants opening in the same building as a sex club...talk about a topic of conversation.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, there is a hearing process, and the Board makes decisions after a public hearing. Now, like a lawsuit in court, the parties can, BUT ARE NOT REQUIRED TO, enter into a settlement agreement, which has somehow come to be called a "voluntary agreement".

That's true and I didn't mean to imply that the law says that the MUST work out an agreement. What I said was 'DC ABRA law (the laws governing who can get a liquor license and under what circumstances) give those 'few' neighbors ... who also happen to be the 'most affected' neighbors a greater weight in determining under what circumstances an expansion can happen, if it can happen at all.'

I.e., The law gives these affected neighbors the greatest weight in protesting ... So, it is in the interests of the business to work things out with these affected neighbors since ABRA, by law, is supposed to take these interests into account ... and give them greater weight than they would from other neighbors. In this case, the onus is particularly on the business in that we're talking about an area zoned 'Neighborhood Serving Retail'. I.e., The business there are really only supposed to operate there if they are serving the residents. The business has a higher bar to reach than if it were in a regular commercial zone.

As for the ANC's role ... the homerule charter distinctly lists one of its roles as acting as a liaison between the residents and the District and Federal government agencies. In that capacity I'd don't think it's a stretch to say that it should be helping the residents (in this case the affected neighbors) with getting a voluntary agreement together so that everything goes smoothly with ABRA. And as for their actually helping a business ... as they've stated they have ... (see Will's email above), I'd question where in the homerule charter are ANCs tasked with assisting businesses and the like. Everything I've ever seen indicates that they are to be 'assisting' residents ... and not businesses.

Lance said...

@ 14th and U" "Additionally, the protestants aren't those "most affected" by Hank's proposed expansion--that would be Hank's immediate neighbors, none of whom have protested the expansion. It's telling that the closest protestant is over 1/2 a block away, and one is nearly three blocks away."

That's a red herring. The neighbors most immediately affected are rentals from what I can tell. Renters don't tend to make complaints about such things. They just move. So just because Jack hasn't heard anything from them doesn't mean they aren't being affected. Additionally, just because one building is directly beside or across the street from an establishment (and we haven't heard anything from the residents there) doesn't mean the folks in houses just a hundred feet (or less) down the road (i.e., the protestants) won't be affected by the noise. And even in regards to those 3 blocks away, wouldn't you have to agree that they even though they are farther away, they will still be affected by the increased parking requirements, and foot traffic, and other externalities being created.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Lance, there hasn't been a single complaint against Hank's in over 5 years of operations. You cant simply assume otherwise because you believe most of the immediately abutting residents are renters--otherwise we've reached new heights of absurdity.

The fact that the only people who can be bothered to protest this entirely reasonable expansion is basically the same small cadre of residents who protested Hank's in 2005 tells me that their position is simply that they do not want Hank's in the neighborhood.

That is not a valid reason for protest. The fact is, as evidenced by my post, not one single claim made by the protestants can withstand scrutiny. Not one.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"Everything I've ever seen indicates that they are to be 'assisting' residents ... and not businesses."

This is completely untrue. ANCs help business all of the time.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know anything about the situation with the Ghana cafe regarding their interest in having live music?

mike said...

I would like to understand more about that as well. How could live music on the street side of the Ghana cafe possibly cause an issue with the residents in the building behind the restaurant? I understand the condo association in that building is causing the issue. How does handicapping a small business that brings character to the neighborhood benefit anyone?

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You The fact that the only people who can be bothered to protest this entirely reasonable expansion is basically the same small cadre of residents who protested Hank's in 2005 tells me that their position is simply that they do not want Hank's in the neighborhood.

I've spoken to one of the neighborhood organizations backing this protest, and your explanation is not accurate. This group is all for the expansion, they're just not for letting it happen without their involvement. They've actually offered to re-do the Voluntary Agreement such that the expansion can occur. Because they are indeed affected by what happens there, they are just looking to retain the involvement which a voluntary agreement allows. And from what they say at least, experience shows that there is good reason to have a voluntary agreement in place here. You cite 'no complaints', however do you know that when originally opened, the owner installed 'openable walls' in the front that would essentially have ALL the noise of the restaurant flowing into the street ... and not just the noise of the folks sitting on the terrace? This was a substantial modification to operations which had not been discussed beforehand, and which had there not been a voluntary agreement in place, the restaurant could not have been required to keep that openable wall closed after certain hours. I.e., the voluntary agreement isn't only about 'complaints'. 'Complaints' as you say it I am presuming mean 'ABRA (liquor license) related' complaints. There are a lot of other nuances in a businesses operations that can affect the 'peace, order, and quiet' affected by a restaurant than those few times that actually result in a 'complaint'. And here is an example of why the neighborhood needs the controls in place in order to avoid the possibility of complaints in the first place.

Were this group trying to stop the expansion outright, I'd be completely with you. But that is not what is occuring in this case. And that is why I'd suspect the result is going to be a new voluntary agreement being put in place with this group.

Lance said...

http://www.borderstan.com/04/what-do-ancs-do/

interesting stuff there ... including how and why voluntary agreements get used.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and U. I was wondering ... before doing your analysis, did you reach out to any of the protestors to both verify your facts and assumptions AND to get their point of view? You know Hanks has done a great PR job. Just because a group isn't any good at PR doesn't automatically make all their positions invalid. These blogs are a great medium to exchange ideas, but until such time that the owners of the blogs start upholding the same journalistic standards as the journalists of the print media, they're also a great source for spreading false assumptions and unsubstantiated 'facts'.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Hank's for refusing to be kowtowed into signing a "voluntary" agreement which a small handful of perennial neighborhood cranks desire to foist upon them.

It's time for the Council to re-examine why so much arbitrary power is granted to so few to delay and derail the licensing process. Credit should be given to the ABC Board for now casting a more skeptical eye on this renegade process and these self-appointed neighborhood czars.

Think about it -- Hank's was viewed by these license protestors as being "guilty" before opening and now, despite years of successful operation and being a valued contributor to the community, there is no reward. Really, folks?

As a neighborhood resident, I commend the businesses which are learning that they no longer have to succumb to such minority voices!

Anonymous said...

@Anon, despite years of successful operation and being a valued contributor to the community, there is no reward.

I'd suspect that if Hank's wasn't being rewarded for its successful operations in our neighborhood, they wouldn't be continuing to operate here ... never mind want to expand.

ABRA licensing isn't about 'rewarding' a business for doing what the law requires of them to begin with. It's about ensuring that they continue to do it. And as in the example I gave above where fortunately there was a voluntary agreement in place to ensure that there was leverage in ensuring that openable wall didn't get openned at all hours of the day and night, voluntary agreements have their place in the scheme of things. Even Mr. 14th and U says that in his openning paragraphs above.

This case is really no different from the ones he apparently supports. He just hasn't bothered to reach out to everyone to get all perspectives. He's let himself be taken in by a good PR campaign that seeks to demonize all opposing viewpoints.

Given what I know, from my having taken the time to speak to the president of one of the neighborhood organizations that is a protestant in this case, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary or unreasonable or different from what would be asked of any other restaurant seeking an expansion in the neighborhood is being asked here.

I too don't like the fact that some of the personalities involved have tried to keep the moratorium going forever. I firmly believe that by definition a moratorium can only be a brief 'holding period' and it has long outlived its usefulness in this neighborhood and should not have been extended the last time around. But I also don't think this matter here has anything to do with that issue as it is being painted.

We use voluntary agreements to 'customize' restaurant and bar operations to the neighborhood, and ensure those most affected by its operations have a say in minimizing the inevitable disruptions to daily life that occur when you have a business operating in an an area surrounded by residences.

Anonymous said...

Lance's take is that NIMBYs rule and that is in the law. Well, that caused me to sit down and read the statute and the regulations, as a westlaw search did not turn up any results for "NIMBY". Lance is simply wrong. Those living in closest proximity have no greater rights under the abc law than anybody else. If I'm wrong, please direct me to the code section or regulation.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"This case is really no different from the ones he apparently supports. He just hasn't bothered to reach out to everyone to get all perspectives."

Well, I didn't reach out to Jamie Leeds, either. In fact, I didn't reach out to anyone. I just obtained a copy of the complaint and wrote about it. If the protestants have a better case to make than what they included in their protest to ABRA, they might want to consider filing an amended protest, because their protest as filed carries no water.

It's telling that the only defenders of Hank's here are those who clamor for the "process" to be followed--as if it is in anyone's best interests that every alcohol-serving establishment should be put through the wringer by a handful of residents with an axe to grind. I support voluntary agreements as much as I support the right for citizens and residents to enact a reasonable protest--which this is not.

Anonymous said...

Lance, the NIMBY troll! I love this guy! He's always on Greater Greater Washington, devising arguments for why outdoor restaurant seating is a bad in urban settings.

You gotta give the man credit: he devotes a great deal of time to this stuff, which his why people like him win. If you want to stop a bar from expanding, you just need to show up at a Tuesday night ANC meeting and complain. If you want a place like Hank's to get a liquor license or the ability to expand, you also need to go said meeting. Instead, my Tuesday involves watching Dancing With the Stars with my girlfriend and drinking red wine. Lance on the other hand is writing and reviewing long memorandum on the letter versus the spirit of Section 403(b) of DC's zoning code.

Who is going to win that battle?

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You, It's my understanding that protests are always written up that way. I.e., You state every possible thing wrong with the proposal and say why you don't want it ... And then you 'hit the reset button' after the voluntary agreement has been signed. It's all part of the bargaining process that is in place here. Do I agree that that part of the process should be changed? Most certainly. If you've been to a Dupont Circle ANC meeting where they discuss the matter, you'll always here them caveat with 'we'll need to protest' BUT don't worry we can work it all out in a voluntary agreement. Yes, it's really a bit too adverserial as it is laid out. But still, that doesn't mean you should take what is in the protest to mean anything other than 'Let's work out a voluntary agreement' ... I'd bet that a lot of what is in this specific protest is boiler-plate and used for most protests in the District.

Tyro said...

You state every possible thing wrong with the proposal and say why you don't want it

Lance, I expect you to have the moral decency to condemn the "protestors" who are basically writing inaccurate lies about Hank's in a dishonest attempt to oppose an expansion. Barring that, you should at least have the balls to defend their transparently false statements. Instead you just brush past this.

If Malloff and Rieffel are, in fact, liars -- as it seems to be, given that they submitted a thoroughly dishonest protest -- I would expect that an honest, decent person would actually condemn both them and the protest process. Instead you defend them without ever actually trying to defend the dishonest content they have submitted. Why is that? What is wrong with you that you aren't able to stand up for honesty here? This dishonest content and your endorsement of it is more evidence that people like you are supporting and encouraging a sick system.

, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary or unreasonable or different from what would be asked of any other restaurant seeking an expansion in the neighborhood is being asked here.

Except that the protestants points are all entirely falsehoods.

Lance said...

@Tyro "who are basically writing inaccurate lies about Hank's"

Why are you assuming any of it is 'false statements'? While it may be boiler plate kind of stuff, that doesn't make it inaccurate. There is the same kind of potential for problems whenever you allow a licensed establishment to open in any residential neighborhood. There's nothing new there. Hence why I'm guessing a lot of it is boilerplate from previous protests.

The statements made really aren't anything more than 'stating the adverse affects of allowing the exception to the zoning' so that there is a position to negotiate to minimize, if not eliminate, these bad affects.

I agree it's adversarial in nature, which is what irks a lot of people, but it's not a lie. Yes, it would make a lot more sense if the process worked in a way that was less adverserial. But, the objective should be the same, i.e., to minimize or eliminate all the negative externalities.

Anonymous said...

"Except that the protestants points are all entirely falsehoods."

Yep. No assumptions being made here, the protesters have conjured up a boogeyman where none exists.

I don't think that David and Alexis ever learned how to play nice with others.

Anonymous said...

"the objective should be the same, i.e., to minimize or eliminate all the negative externalities."

Is it? "Negative externalities" is far too nebulous and broad. In this case, we've got basically two residents who think that Hank's has de-valued their properties and somehow negatively impacted their quality of life, only they can't provide any concrete evidence to show how they have been harmed.

Does Hank's bring people to the 17th and Q intersection, and do those people contribute at least somewhat so noise and traffic? Sure, Hank's is a restaurant, and restaurants will do that. But David and Alexis live in Dupont Circle, which is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the middle of a major urban area. There is going to be noise, and there is going to be some traffic, and parking will sometimes be difficult. If David and Alexis can't deal with those things, then they are welcome to move to a quiet, residential neighborhood--because EVERY restaurant and business will bring those things to a neighborhood to some degree.

People are so worked up about this protest because the issues David and Alexis are raising are so patently absurd for a restaurant operating lawfully and respectfully in the middle of Dupont. Following David and Alexis's protest to its (il)logical conclusion, no restaurants or bars should ever be permitted to open in the neighborhood, because they contribute to noise, traffic and parking. That's simply ridiculous, and it's no wonder people are overwhelmingly supportive of throwing this protest out.

Lance said...

Anon, People are so worked up about this protest because the issues David and Alexis are raising are so patently absurd for a restaurant operating lawfully and respectfully in the middle of Dupont. Following David and Alexis's protest to its (il)logical conclusion, no restaurants or bars should ever be permitted to open in the neighborhood, because they contribute to noise, traffic and parking. That's simply ridiculous, and it's no wonder people are overwhelmingly supportive of throwing this protest out.

Well ... there's one thing that complicates the equation. The area this restaurant is located in is zoned 'Neighborhood Serving Retail'. That means businesses located in this strip aren't supposed to be attracting people from outside the neighborhood ... That means 'no extra foot traffic', 'no increased parking requirements', 'no extra noise'.

From what I understand, the prime protestants here have lived in the neighborhood for something like 30 years ... That would have been before this strip started serving people from outside the neighborhood.

I guess the bottom line is that if we want this strip to be more than a 'neighborhood serving retail' zoned area, we should change the zoning. Otherwise, those who would like to see it remain (or revert?) to what it was 30 years ago have the upper hand legally. And it doesn't do anyone any good when we just 'wink' and let changes happen 'informally' vs. 'formally' (i.e., change in zoning regs), because then these informal changes can equally be used by the 'bad' applicants to get what they want. Yes, it's a matter of process ... as someone inferred earlier.

Anonymous said...

Lance: "The area this restaurant is located in is zoned 'Neighborhood Serving Retail'. That means businesses located in this strip aren't supposed to be attracting people from outside the neighborhood."

No, it doesn't mean that at all. There is no definition of "neighborhood serving retail" that includes an stipulation against individuals from outside of the neighborhood patronizing the business. You're just making that up.

Even if such a stipulation did exist, it would be unenforceable. What is Hank's supposed to do: check IDs at the door and turn away anyone not from within a 1/2 mile radius of the neighborhood?

Ridiculous.

sherri said...

What can we do to show our support for Hank's to the Board before the October meeting?

Anonymous said...

"...my Tuesday involves watching Dancing With the Stars with my girlfriend and drinking red wine."


ROFL
I'm not sayin' one word, it's all right there in black and white.

JustMe said...

Lance kind of reminds me of this guy.

Lance said...

Well ... It's Tuesday night ... Dancing with the Stars is on ... Santana is on the show! Wow! Ok, now where's my red wine ... And your girlfriend ...

That's right, she comes over on Wednesday nights ;)

Blue-eyed Devil said...

Clearly these people are afraid of the oyster's legendary aphrodisiacal properties and are mortified at the thought that additional seating capacity will only add to the current pool of drunken satyrs terrorizing that little corner of NW DC.

Seriously, they need to pour that kind of energy into something a little more meaningful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a chilled plate of Little Shemogues calling my name...

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum said...

I would like to respond to the additional comments about the ANC, which are unfair.

At the ANC, we have to do what is good for the neighborhood. That is how we serve our constituents, the residents.

Different residents can have wildly different opinions about certain issues, as evidenced by the Hanks protest and this very comment page. Some residents think supporting a place like Hanks is good for the neighborhood, while others think protesting a place like Hanks is good for the neighborhood.

We, as ANC Commissioners, talk with people, learn as much as we can about the issues, and then decide which way to go. This is our duty under the law, to provide our "great weight" on applications. Do we support, not object, take no action, or protest? These are our options.

We do our best to decide what's right for the most residents, for the long term. This means we'll often take action that some residents like and other residents don't like. That's the very nature of elected government, not an abdication of our role.

-- Will Stephens, ANC 2B Chair

Tyro said...

We, as ANC Commissioners, talk with people, learn as much as we can about the issues, and then decide which way to go

Hi, Mr. ANC Commissioner. Apparently you don't know what your job is: it's actually none of your business to use your judgment about whether a law abiding citizen's business is "good" for the neighborhood. Your job is to ensure that law-abiding citizens can go about their business without being stymied by zoning technicalities.

There are certain people who think that alcohol should be banned or don't want restaurants or think that DC is just "not the place" for outdoor seating. Their opinions don't matter, since they don't own the land. I think you are wasting a lot of time and energy obsessing over whether every single real estate transaction is "good for the neighborhood" or not. You're not revamping the zoning overlays. You're dealing with a law-abiding business owner trying to make a living. Once you gain a better idea about what your job is, you will find these problems a lot easier to be solved. Given that you're all volunteers who work for free, dealing with these applications isn't supposed to be some big political rocket science. You're not a US Senator.

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum said...

@ Tyro

That is exactly our job. But it sounds like you and I are actually in agreement in my point that the job of an ANC commissioner is not to be a mouthpiece for any particular resident, regardless of what they are saying, but to provide the neighborhood's opinion.

But where we disagree is that it is very important at this neighborhood level of government not to just summarily ignore someone. You might be able to do that as a U.S. Senator. But we are neighbors, so we still need to engage and listen even if we ultimately disagree.

Tyro said...

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum: Wow, we're actually not in agreement at all. If the neighborhood wants to prevail upon the city to change the entire zoning structure of their neighborhood, then they may wish to petition the ANC to help make that happen. But I think you really need to rethink your job and stop thinking that there even needs to be a "neighborhood" opinion about things like Hank's. Look, some people don't like seafood. "The neighborhood" may even try to say "we don't want seafood 'round here." But tough luck: it's not really their decision to make, and it's not the ANC's job to make these judgment calls. *I* don't like oysters, myself, but if someone wants to open an oyster shop, I'm not going to go crying to my ANC commissioner trying to get them to "listen" to my "concerns." If I have some "vision" for a business that I would prefer to have in my neighborhood, it is incumbent upon *me* to start that business, not throw a tantrum to my ANC commissioner every time a law abiding citizen starts a legal business.

Part of this, of course, is the fault of the rest of DC's government which "passes the buck" to the ANCs. The ANCs shouldn't actually be involved. I suppose it would help if the rest of the DC government made this explicit so that citizens would stop expecting the ANCs to "do something" because they object to the cuisine being served down the block or hate restaurants, or simply have nothing better to do other than whine. But you're enabling these gadflies by encouraging them rather than telling them, "it's not our job to interfere with a law abiding citizen's small business."

Lance said...

Tyro, you're absolutely correct that the ANC is not supposed to be deciding what is 'good for the neighborhood'. That is an overstep of the role created for ANCs in the Home Rule Charter. A common overstep by ANCs, but still an overstep and improper at many many levels.

Yes, they can weigh in on applications for things like ABC licences, but they aren't supposed to be weighing in from a perspective of 'we like the person who runs this restaurant, but not the person who runs that restaurant'. Or even from the perspective of 'we think this is the kind of restaurant we want to see here' or 'we think this isn't the kind of restaurant we want to see here'. Their weigh-in, by law, is supposed to be purely from the perspective of 'this restaurant will be complying with all the rules and regulations ... or it will not'. So, in that respect you are absolutely correct.

HOWEVER, the part you're missing is that 'by law' ... the liquor licensing rules and procedures in the District REQUIRE that the neighbors, most particularly those most affected, be brought into the licensing process. Hence why ABRA encourages Voluntary Agreements. Technically, it doesn't need to be voluntary agreements, ABRA is just looking to see that those most affected have had a chance to work out 'little issues' that will allow the applicant to operate AND the neighbors affected to continue to enjoy their peace order and quiet.

So, maybe the ANC doesn't need to work as the 'honest broker' in this 'agreement process' ... though in its role as 'liaison between the residents of the neighborhood and District and Federal agencies and departments' you could argue that it should. But it also should not 'take sides' ... except to protect the interests of the residents in a particular case. That's its role under the Home Rule Charter ... simply put, to advise boards such as ABRA whether an application is in the interests of it RESIDENTS (note not the restaurant's interests) ... but NOT to set public policy by helping a restaurant it happens to like to get through the regulatory process. The ANC's powers don't extend to 'setting policy' which is what it is doing when it decides 'which restaurants it wants to see where, etc.' And that is improper and an overstep of their roles and responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

ANC's are pointless and a big ole waste of time.

Anonymous said...

first, i don't like to post anonymously, but as a bar owner, i have a great fear of this process. a couple things i wanted to toss out there, to think about. when i was opening, i was protested by two different groups. one group's protest was lost by abra, and my hearing was moved back a month. to a small business, a month delay can be very painful. then to add insult to injury, 3 of the 5 protestants didn't even live close. not blocks away, but in fact maryland. i would also vaguely argue, that small businesses, could use some of the same protections that residents need. i spend as much time at my house as the bar so, i'm not a resident but i live there. also we fill the gaps often left by the city and residents. for instance during the blizzard, some of the business owners paid to have the alleys cleared and trash picked up. just a few things to think about and further cloud the issue.

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum said...

@ Lance and @ Tyro ---

Aha! I see now where the disconnect is. You guys just didn't understand what I meant when I said "good for the neighborhood." Sorry that I wasn't more clear. I'm using "good for the neighborhood" as a proxy or short-hand for the kinds of things you mention, not just some vague sense of value or worth.

The factors incorporated in "good for the neighborhood" would include answers to the following questions about an establishment:

- Do they have a history of ABC violations or a clean record?
- Do they abide by license hours and other restrictions?
- Do they abide by noise restrictions?
- Do they contribute significantly to a rat problem, or do they keep their premises clean?
- Do they cause (or serve as a catalyst for) public safety problems like street altercations or public intoxication?
- Are they responsive when neighbors or the ANC express concerns or raise questions?

So it looks like we don't actually disagree on that point about the role of the ANC. I'd add that answering these questions often requires Commissioners to talk to a lot of people and study the establishment.

BUT -- To Tyro's earlier comments, I still think it's very important to speak with neighbors who have concerns, even if we (ANC Commissioners) ultimately don't share those concerns and vote other way. We live in too close of quarters to just outright dismiss folks as crazy or irrational or having opinions that are unworthy.

AND -- to Lance's comments, I think you're confusing two different functions of the ANC. One of our statutory functions is to provide an opinion on applications. Once we pass a resolution setting forth the opinion, we have to advocate for that opinion. We can't serve as liaisons for neighbors who have the opposite opinion (except to the extent that we give them technical advice as to how to file a protest or how to communicate with ABRA, for example). A second, distinct function is to serve as a liaison when residents have concerns and need help bringing those concerns to the attention of DC agencies -- for example, if a tree box has been mangled, or if they don't know how to contact our Council Member. I think your comments are not recognizing the distinction between the two.

-- Will Stephens, ANC 2B chair

Anonymous said...

"HOWEVER, the part you're missing is that 'by law' ... the liquor licensing rules and procedures in the District REQUIRE that the neighbors, most particularly those most affected, be brought into the licensing process."

Lance, again I ask you to cite where in the ABC law you find this. i read it all, and do not find this concept there ANYWHERE.

Lance said...

Will, Will, Will, my friend ... a couple of comments:

'One of our statutory functions is to provide an opinion on applications. Once we pass a resolution setting forth the opinion, we have to advocate for that opinion.'

No you don't. You don't see ABRA advocating for permits they've approved, do you? They either grant them or they don't. And the ANC's role here is likewise to either support or oppose or 'take no action' in regards to an applicant's request for a permit. In this role, the ANC, like the regulatory agency that is relying on the ANC's advisement, is providing oversight on a regulatory manner. To then 'advocate' for an applicant where this oversight has been performed is counter to the whole idea of 'oversight'. To further advocate in the way of 'paving the way for expansion' such as getting the zoning changed (without legal notice to neighbors), asking that ABRA change the moratorium for a lateral expansion in a way that is 'built to suit' for this particular applicant, is even worse ... definitely improper and possibly illegal ... And most certainly will work against the applicant when these 'pretty smart' protestors who you're not supporting bring all this up at the hearing. (Hence another reason why the ANC's role is not to advocate for an applicant over which it has excercised regulatory oversight over ... even if in only an 'advisory' nature.)

'We can't serve as liaisons for neighbors who have the opposite opinion (except to the extent that we give them technical advice as to how to file a protest or how to communicate with ABRA, for example).'

I guess from my viewpoint it's really all about process. It's not about supporting a viewpoint, but rather about supporting 'a process.'

These neighbors are guaranteed a voice in the process of allowing a business to expand in an area surrounded by neighboring residences. I might not agree with their wanting to stop what will most likely not be a problem, but I also don't want to see them lose their right to hold the restaurant accountable for ensuring that they don't lose their peace, order and quiet in the process. And for good or for bad, under current ABRA practices, the Voluntary Agreement is the only way for the affected neighbors to (1) negotiate the amicably agreed to operating parameters and (2) personally enforce these parameters at a later date if required.

So, while the ANC may view itself as reflecting the 'wishes of the majority' in the neighborhood by 'helping' the restaurant expand, what it's actually doing is helping the restaurant avoid the legal process by which everyone's rights, including the minority rights of the protestors, are protected.

IF the ANC had taken a lead role in renewing a Voluntary Agreement, it could have both ensured that demands on boths sides were reasonable AND ensured that the process was followed and everyone's rights respected.

Instead the ANC chose to 'take sides' ... it became part of the melee rather than rising above it and providing guidance for getting the neighborhood out of it ...

Lance said...

Will, Will, Will, my friend ... a couple of comments:

'One of our statutory functions is to provide an opinion on applications. Once we pass a resolution setting forth the opinion, we have to advocate for that opinion.'

No you don't. You don't see ABRA advocating for permits they've approved, do you? They either grant them or they don't. And the ANC's role here is likewise to either support or oppose or 'take no action' in regards to an applicant's request for a permit. In this role, the ANC, like the regulatory agency that is relying on the ANC's advisement, is providing oversight on a regulatory manner. To then 'advocate' for an applicant where this oversight has been performed is counter to the whole idea of 'oversight'. To further advocate in the way of 'paving the way for expansion' such as getting the zoning changed (without legal notice to neighbors), asking that ABRA change the moratorium for a lateral expansion in a way that is 'built to suit' for this particular applicant, is even worse ... definitely improper and possibly illegal ... And most certainly will work against the applicant when these 'pretty smart' protestors who you're not supporting bring all this up at the hearing. (Hence another reason why the ANC's role is not to advocate for an applicant over which it has excercised regulatory oversight over ... even if in only an 'advisory' nature.)

'We can't serve as liaisons for neighbors who have the opposite opinion (except to the extent that we give them technical advice as to how to file a protest or how to communicate with ABRA, for example).'

I guess from my viewpoint it's really all about process. It's not about supporting a viewpoint, but rather about supporting 'a process.'

These neighbors are guaranteed a voice in the process of allowing a business to expand in an area surrounded by neighboring residences. I might not agree with their wanting to stop what will most likely not be a problem, but I also don't want to see them lose their right to hold the restaurant accountable for ensuring that they don't lose their peace, order and quiet in the process. And for good or for bad, under current ABRA practices, the Voluntary Agreement is the only way for the affected neighbors to (1) negotiate the amicably agreed to operating parameters and (2) personally enforce these parameters at a later date if required.

So, while the ANC may view itself as reflecting the 'wishes of the majority' in the neighborhood by 'helping' the restaurant expand, what it's actually doing is helping the restaurant avoid the legal process by which everyone's rights, including the minority rights of the protestors, are protected.

IF the ANC had taken a lead role in renewing a Voluntary Agreement, it could have both ensured that demands on boths sides were reasonable AND ensured that the process was followed and everyone's rights respected.

Instead the ANC chose to 'take sides' ... it became part of the melee rather than rising above it and providing guidance for getting the neighborhood out of it ...

2010 Ward 2 Council Chair Candidates Forum said...

@ Lance --

You are stating a focus on process, but I don't follow how there is something wrong with the process in this case. The case is currently following the processes set forth in the statute & regs, and the resident complainants maintain all their rights thereunder.

I'm not connecting your dots as to how the ANC's action (i.e. make no objection to the application) affects the resident complainants rights or the ABRA processes.

Lance said...

Will

I'm not connecting your dots as to how the ANC's action (i.e. make no objection to the application) affects the resident complainants rights or the ABRA processes.

Will I have no issue with the ANC's inaction as to the application itself. Like I said, the ANC can support, oppose, or take no action. I'm not sure you understood what I wrote.

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Voltaire

Anonymous said...

Lance,
If ANCs are not supposed to advocate for a position, why is it they routinely participate in a protest of a license? Is it your view that ANCs can only advocate if they are against??

Lance said...

@Anon Is it your view that ANCs can only advocate if they are against??

ANCs don't protest a license to 'protest' it in the normal sense of the word. They protest the license (in the legalistic sense) in order to kick off a process whereby the applicant and the affected neighbors (and even the neighborhood in general) come to terms with how certain eventualities coming out of the liquor license will be handled. (I.e., when an ANC 'protests' an application, it's not really opposing anything. It's just 'playing its part' in a complicated process. Don't believe me? Ask Will, the commissioner posting on here.)

A major part of the problem here is misunderstanding of terminology and of process. The terms used in the ABRA system (like elsewhere in DC bureaucracy) don't necessarily mean what they sound like in their normal sense.

And, if you talked to one of the main protestors in this case, you'd learn that they are just as frustrated with 'the system' here as everyone else. As one of them described it to me, he wished ABRA would take care of ensuring that peace order and quiet etc were ensured without requiring his involvement in the matter. But it doesn't. The way the process is laid out, he has to protest in order for his interests to be looked after. And he even mentioned that he really doesn't like being painted as a 'meanie' (his words) because a broken process being used by ABRA requires his personal involvement.

Mr. You and 14th has a point that the system needs to change. But demonizing folks because they're playing by what the system is today, doesn't become 'okay' simply because the system could stand to be different. They have rights and interests too. And to go back to what I initially said, the nicest part of a democracy isn't that the majority can do anything it wants just by voting on it, but rather that individual and minority interests get protected ... even when the majority could profit off their loses. And that's what this case is about. Yes, we'd all like to see more restaurants and bars along 17th ... but we need to be sure those most affected get a say in how that happens. It's only fair ... and democratic!

Mr. 14th & You said...

"And, if you talked to one of the main protestors in this case, you'd learn that they are just as frustrated with 'the system' here as everyone else.

...

But demonizing folks because they're playing by what the system is today, doesn't become 'okay' simply because the system could stand to be different."


Yes, the system could be improved, but that's not the reason I'm calling out David and Alexis. They're not some victims of a flawed system, they're abusing the system. To go back to the last line of the post, just because the law permits them to protest the expansion doesn't mean that protesting the expansion is the right move.

David, Alexis and the others elected on their own accord to file a baseless protest against a popular neighborhood eatery. It should come as little surprise to you or to them that such an action has generated widespread frustration and resentment among people throughout the neighborhood. We are in agreement that the protest system is inherently flawed and needs to be reformed. But I don't for a second accept the premise that the protestants are somehow the "victims" in this situation.

JF said...

This is a bit off-topic, but I wanted to ask Mr 14th and You:

I live in Union Row, across from the AM/PM that will soon be transformed into a Tex-Mex place. Right now, it's a corner that I don't like to be on, with lots of people just standing and sitting about all day and night. But now, people in my residence are all up in arms because there will be a restaurant with a bar in it across the street. Have you heard anything about this?

Mr. 14th & You said...

I have heard about a Tex-Mex place coming to that corner, but don't have the specifics.

The person you'll want to reach out to is Peter Raia, who is the ANC1B commissioner tasked with negotiating voluntary agreements for businesses around the U Street corridor. Peter will have information about the specific plans for the establishment, hearing dates and so on.

Lance said...

@Mr 14th and YOU To go back to the last line of the post, just because the law permits them to protest the expansion doesn't mean that protesting the expansion is the right move.

And what would you propose is the right move? Keep in mind that Hank's isn't there as a 'matter of right'. The only reason it got a liquor license was because ABRA brought these neighbors into the discussions back when Hanks opened and said 'okay, what does Hanks have to do for you to be okay with an exception being made for Hanks to get a liquor license?' ... The points all the parties agreed upon are contained in the Voluntary Agreement which the parties (both sides) signed. This is the Voluntary Agreement which Hanks wants to vacate. Note that despite the propoganda being propogated, not all the points agreed to by the parties are contained in the 'licensing requirements' which ABRA puts in place. So, if these affected neighbors shouldn't be using the protest process to ensure the rules of the agreement don't get changed on them now, how would you propose they go about doing so. Remember, Hank's has no 'matter of right' to a license there. It received the license as an exception, with that exception only happening because ABRA was satisfied that the affected neighbors had worked out 'the details' with Hanks.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"And what would you propose is the right move?"

Simple - don't protest Hank's expansion. Hank's is permitted to expand, and as I demonstrated there is no legal basis upon which their application could be denied.

So don't protest.

Lance said...

Hank's is permitted to expand

Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? After all, isn't determining whether it will be permitted to expand the whole point of this 'process'? ... be it a good process or a bad process ...

Mr. 14th & You said...

"isn't determining whether it will be permitted to expand the whole point of this 'process'?"

Only if the protestants have a valid argument. For example, if Hank's had been in violation of the tenets of its VA or liquor license, there could be grounds for a protest. Or, if ABRA had not specifically changed the law and permitted four lateral expansions within the 17th Street moratorium zone, there could be grounds for a protest.

As it stands, David et al are simply throwing anything they can think of at the wall and hoping that something sticks. Simply not wanting a restaurant in your neighborhood is not a valid grounds for a protest.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You,

Okay, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree ...

I see value in the process of getting what we call in the corporate world 'buy in' ... or in the government 'concurrence' to the proposed project from all 'stakeholders' (including affected neighbors in this case.) It's a concept which any 'business' ignores at its peril. I see this as separate and distinct from whether Hanks has been a good neighbor and or is an asset (or not) to the neighborhood, or deserving of an expansion. It's simply 'everyone getting along and working toward common goals'.

My guess is that ABRA will keep the Voluntary Agreement in place with the exception that the capacities/square footages mentioned in it will be increased to allow for the expansion. I.e., My guess is that the end result will be exactly what these neighbors who are party to the Voluntary Agreement were proposing anyways.

Will you do a follow up after the hearing?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

"The only reason it got a liquor license was because ABRA brought these neighbors into the discussions back when Hanks opened and said 'okay, what does Hanks have to do for you to be okay with an exception being made for Hanks to get a liquor license?' ..."

Lance,
As I said earlier, your ramblings caused me to sit down and read the ENTIRE ABC statute and regulations, and you are clueless as to what is actually in the law. There was no "exception" made. Hanks had the right to apply for a license, and was entitled to a hearing on the application. If you read Jamie Leeds' piece, it is obvious that the ABC's understanding of the law at that time was no better than yours. They delayed Hanks' hearing so long Leeds had no choice but to cave in and sign a VA. All of this stuff you say about some mandatory agreement was probably the reality then, but is nonsense under the actual laws.
Please. I've read it all. Again I ask you, if you have something contrary, give us a code section or regulation number. Otherwise, it is pretty obvious you are making all of this up based on how you think things should work, rather than how they are supposed to under the law.

Pat Harris said...

I went to high school with Jamie Leeds and I would be surprised that she would run an establishment that was not a asset to the community it was in. I live in the "boring" Midwest and we see this stuff all the time but if I understand it correctly Hank's is attempting to expand into a space that is/has been unused for years! What is it with these people...won't Hank's add to the tax base by expanding to this unused space????

Anonymous said...

Before I go to bed tonight, I'm going to say a little prayer that when I wake up there will not be any ANCs anymore . . .

Then -- and only then -- maybe DC can finally rid itself of all the petty, ridiculous, small-minded crazies who think they know better than everyone else, and actually let the rule of law prevail.

Sheeeesh.

Lance said...

If you read Jamie Leeds' piece, it is obvious that the ABC's understanding of the law at that time was no better than yours.

Yeah, the folks who get to make the decisions are clueless as to what basis they are making the decisions on and more importantly the inclusive process they are requiring be in place. Your falacy is in thinking 'everything is written in black and white in 'the law'. As if 'how' a law is interpreted and implemented isn't as important in how it is specifally written.

Lance said...

@Pat,

Not everything can be boiled down to dollars and cents. Yes, people are happy to see more tax dollars come in, and more importantly are happy to see another fine restaurant within easy walking distance. And if that's all that was involved here, it would be a no-brainer in encouraging Hanks to expand and every other 'Tom Dick an Harry' restaurant to come it. But it's not.

There's the issue of 'quality of life'. And while an expansion of this particular restaurant may not affect 90% of the people living in this neighborhood (and not effect 99% of the people living in DC), it will affect some people living close to it.

You say you live in the mid-west and I'm assuming that means you probably have a regular suburban house. Now, imagine someone opening a restaurant at the foot of your driveway ... right where the driveway touches the street. Imagine your having worked with them to allow it to happen ... despite knowing that it would make a lot of noise till the wee hours of the morning. But you did anyways because you know that for the good of your neighbors down the street, it's nice to have a restaurant close by. One agreement you made was that they could have 75 people there ... 50 inside and 25 outside. And that they'd have to close the outside at hours you'd agreed to. Now 5 years have gone by. You've had to put up with waiting for people to move out of the way as you try to drive up your driveway. You've had to learn to use earplugs to sleep at night. You can't keep your windows open most of the day or night. And your guests visiting you can't park at your curbside because restaurant patrons are taking all the available curbside parking. You've made real sacrifices to let this restaurant set up shop. This restaurant hasn't had any complaints filed with the liquor licensing board, but that doesn't mean much to you because for a complaint to be filed it's really got to be something like 'someone stabbed someone else'. Complaints don't get filed for keeping you awake at night or for your guests no longer being able to park in front of your house.

Now 5 years go by and the restaurant wants to double the number of people eating right outside your house at the end of the drive way. They want to allow 150 people ... with 100 being inside and 50 sitting at tables where you can hear their every word. And you say 'okay, I'll agree to allow you to serve twice as many people .... but I still want to be able to hold you accountable if you don't follow the agreement we had in place that allowed you to open in the first place. And the restaurant says ... I don't want to deal with you. The bottom of the driveway is mine now and I'm not going to work with you anymore to ensure that you get at least some assurance of being able to lead at least a little bit of a normal life. I'm cutting you out of the process completely.

Well that is what is happening here. Whether the restaurant serves good food or whether a lot of people like it or its owner isn't in question here. It's simply a matter of respecting the neighbors ... not those who benefit from having this restaurant here, but rather those who must sacrifice in order to allow the restaurant to operate here in what is a residential neighborhood.

So tell me, would you be okay with my opening a restaurant at the foot of your driveway?

Anonymous said...

No, Lance, I just prefer the rule of law over a system that empowers the most vocal negative minority. If the ABC Board prefers neighborhood consensus rather than doing their job and making decisions after promptly held hearings, than we need new members who will follow the law.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!

The rule of law should prevail as administered by an ABC Board which quickly adjudicates such matters without this endless period of wrangling over the auto-protests of such teensy-weensy groups.

If that isn't acceptable, then I say "sell the car, leave the house with the driveway, and move someplace really, really quiet and get a horse and buggy to fetch the goods at the general store"!

Lance said...

If the ABC Board prefers neighborhood consensus rather than doing their job and making decisions after promptly held hearings, than we need new members who will follow the law.

This is a residential neighborhood where the commercial enterprises operating there are limited by law to retail that is serving the surrounding neighbors. So, if you really want the law 'followed' than the applicant will have a hard time justifying that extra capacity is required to 'serve the neighbors' ...

I think the point that is being missed is that at least as far this row of restaurants go, the VA allows growth rather than hinders it. Without it, there's little reason for ABRA to approve additional capacity.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Dupont isn't a "residential neighborhood" Lance. It's a mixture of residential and commercial.

Lance said...

Dupont isn't a "residential neighborhood" Lance. It's a mixture of residential and commercial.

I wasn't referring to Dupont. I was talking about the 17th Street corridor. As it has been noted many times at the Dupont ANC meetings - by its commissioners - the commericial area on that street is classified as 'neighborhood serving retail'. I.e., It's intended to provide a full range of services for the residents within the immediate neighborhood. (I believe it's the Comprehensive Plan that makes this distinction.) Critics of any expansion of restaurants and bars along 17th Street have successfully used this in the past as a means of limiting expansions by logically claiming one more restaurant means one less hardware store or other type of businesses required to 'serve the neighborhood.' So, for those who want 'the letter of the law' followed, this too is part of that law. I personally prefer the current arrangement whereby the VA gets used to allow exceptions to this designation and allow us to get more restaurants here ... provided the immediate neighbors can be satisfied their larger concerns have been heard and acted on.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"I wasn't referring to Dupont. I was talking about the 17th Street corridor."

Which is part of Dupont and is also a mixed commercial/residential neighborhood.

What I continue to find most interesting is that here we are, over 80 comments into this discussion, and no one has been able to present any supporting evidence for the arguments made by the protestants in this case. All of this talk of nuance and process and "letter of the law" are just red herrings in a discussion that should be centered around the validity of the protest--which, near as I can tell, is non-existent.

And with that, I'm shutting down comments to this thread, as things are just going in circles at this point. Rest assured I'll be putting something else about Hank's up in the near future, where everyone will be able to pick this wonderful little argument back up again.