Friday, October 1, 2010

Saloon Owner Threatens to Leave U Street Due to Liquor License Dispute

The 14thandyous love the Saloon. We really, truly do. How can you not love a bar that refuses to have a TV, forbids patrons from standing, and will toss you and your party out if you get too noisy?

But The Saloon has gotten themselves into a bit of hot water, and it has to do with DC's oft-maligned liquor license laws. The Saloon, which is owned by Kamal Jahanbein, operates under a "Restaurant Class" liquor license which, among other stipulations, requires that it derive at least 45% of its sales from food.

As the City Paper reports, Jahanbein was given a good talking-to during a recent Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board hearing because The Saloon only generates food sales in the neighborhood of 35%. In order to operate without a food restriction, Jahanbein would need to transition to a "Tavern Class" license, only neighborhood residents tend to flip out whenever a business does that.

The problem, as Jahanbein sees it, is that DC doesn't officially recognize the type of establishment The Saloon is--a pub.

Now, we hate to say that we called this one, but this is a point we made way back in the day (March 2010, to be exact) we raised this very issue, and how a third classof license for alcohol-serving establishments--a Pub License--needed to be created. This would address those types of establishments that do not sell enough food to be a restaurant, but may not operate as an out-and-out bar.

Or, as Jahanbein put it, "If they want to call us a tavern, we are a tavern. But we are a pub."

Indeed they are. Only DC has no Pub Class license, leaving Jahanbein in a bit of a quandary--he can pay a $1,000 fine and submit to ongoing monitoring of his establishment, or he can pursue a Tavern Class license. According to the CP article, he's not happy about either situation, but would be willing to pursue a Tavern license if he thought it would be successful. If not, he mentions that he might pack up and move his bar to a more accommodating neighborhood.

I'm not inclined to get on my soapbox about this again, so I'll keep my rant here simple: the city is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to acknowledge that there is a class of licensee that exists between a restaurant and a bar. Anyone who has visited London, for instance, could tell you this. By refusing to acknowledge this, the city is creating two unhelpful situations: businesses who do not wish to be beholden to the food service requirements (such as having a chef on premises up to two hours before closing time) must either seek to convert to a tavern license (and thus leave the city with no recourse to regulate them via a food service requirement), or risk being shut down or levied with fines.

As this issue begins to crop up more and more, you'll likely see more businesses advocating for this type of thing. As it stands, time will tell whether U Street residents have the stomach for another "tavern" along the corridor.

53 comments:

Ironic Goat said...

I would hope that U street residents recognize that the Saloon is not about to start having wild dance parties.

Anonymous said...

This is merely one more example of how and why our city's liquor licensing scheme and regulatory approval process is so far out of whack that it is a wonder that anyone bothers to open a restaurant or bar (or PUB!) business in DC at all!

Here's to hoping that the Council -- under Vince Gray's leadership as Mayor and as a reflection of his oft-repeated campaign statements supporting business-friendly city agency regulatory reform -- will correct these ABC deficiencies!

Lance said...

I don't understand why they can't apply for a tavern permit. I lived on 'the other side of the pond' and a 'tavern' IS a pub ... Just because a lot of taverns here in DC don't excercise their right to serve food, doesn't mean it's still not a 'right'. And even by simple logic, everyone knows a tavern is supposed to be serving food ... though few of us would really realize that our favorite hang out places around the corner are actually 'taverns' and not 'bars'. Let's not create more categories to worry about.

And no matter what you call a bar, a bar is still a bar ... And that's not a bad thing ... I just don't see why were're getting hung up on names.

David said...

I agree with 14th and U so regularly, but on the Saloon, I cannot. In fact, I and friends have boycotted it for several years now.

A policy of "no standing" is nice in theory, but his absolute rude and gruff treatment of his patrons is appalling. If you're three people sitting at the bar, not eating, but drinking, and a friend comes to join you and there is no seat, he will throw them out, even as the waiters rush around, trying (like abused stepchildren) to accommodate you.

Once, at 1am on a Saturday, we were too loud, and he came over to address us. When he pointed it out, we all apologized, and told him we would be much quieter. He responded with an insulting: "NO! Don't be quieter. SHUT UP, and listen to one another." When a friend said he was out of line, he belittled him as a "college student?," when he was in fact an experienced government attorney. The extent to which he will find an opportunity to judge and insult is unheard of to me. We didn't need to be thrown out... we left.

And who loses out? His waiters, who get crappy tips from everyone he insults.

I won't miss this (non-accessible) venue, not for a second.

Anonymous said...

What possible relevance does your personal opinion about an experience you had at the establishment have related to the issue of license classification and regulatory fairness in creating appropriate ABC categories for businesses???

This is what is at the heart of the craziness of the allowed license protest groups and ANC meddling in business operations of commercial establishments!

What's next -- driving community small businesses out of our lives because your food was overcooked?

Tyro said...

This explains in part why Biergarten Haus on H St. has such expensive food rather than serving as a traditional biergarten serving beer and inexpensive currywurst-- because it has to boost its food revenues.

I like the Saloon. One of the things I like about it is that it serves "bar food" rather than gouging me on overpriced gourmet food.

I don't understand why they can't apply for a tavern permit.

Because a group of self-righteous busybodies will out-and-out lie and claim that Jahanbein is a blight on the neighborhood and that converting to a tavern will kill children and bring on a plague of locusts while you praise the complainants for ensure that "all stakeholders to get together and resolve this issue."

Lance said...

@Tyro, You ever hear the saying 'call a spade a spade'? If it's main pupose isn't selling food, it's not a restaurant. It's either a bar (i.e., 'tavern'/'pub'/'whatever you want to call it') or a nightclub. Creating a new category that doesn't define it doing anything different from what you'd already expect a 'tavern'/'pub'/'whatever you want to call it' to do (i.e., sell some pub grub with the alcohol) won't solve anything.

And as for neighbors complaining, this tavern sits in a commercial area ... i.e., not in the middle of a residential area with residences directly across the street and adjacent to it. While the neighbors still get to get involved, it's a lot harder to ask an ABC licensed establishment to give concessions to neighbors when there aren't any immediately affected neighbors in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here ever been to a "pub" in England ?

Do you see "no standing" signs in pubs in England ?
Do you see "sssh, be quiet" signs in pubs in England ?

He want's to own a "pub" and create his own non-pub rules.

Bottom line is, a bar is a bar is a bar.
The library is a library.

Anonymous said...

Lance says: "And as for neighbors complaining, this tavern sits in a commercial area ... i.e., not in the middle of a residential area with residences directly across the street and adjacent to it. While the neighbors still get to get involved, it's a lot harder to ask an ABC licensed establishment to give concessions to neighbors when there aren't any immediately affected neighbors in the first place."

Hello? Are you kidding me? A simple review of the infamous and years-long ABC fights initiated by small bands of nanny naysayers morphing into "license protest groups" in the immediate area (including that immediate part of U Street itself) and led by the notorious ANC commissioner Ramon Estrada and his pals indicates otherwise.

But, hey, what does one expect when the ABC licensing process is so skewed that a few shrill voices are allowed to override an entire community?

Lance said...

@Anon A simple review of the infamous and years-long ABC fights initiated by small bands of nanny naysayers morphing into "license protest groups" in the immediate area (including that immediate part of U Street itself) and led by the notorious ANC commissioner Ramon Estrada and his pals indicates otherwise.

I only know of one case in which Commissioner Estrada was involved in (and I'm not saying there aren't others ... just saying this is the case I know about), and in this case is that you had a restaurant not operating as a restaurant but as a nightclub. There's a big difference between the two.

My point is simply that ABRA's rules are such that while neighbors can and should be involved in the process, they really only get as much weight (i.e., 'say') as they are affected. In the case of Hanks, the folks protesting are literally as close to Hank's patio as someone living in a far off suburb is to the 'bottom of their driveway'. No one is saying Hanks shouldn't be allowed to expand ... just that these folks have a right to be involved in assuring that the expansion occurs in such a way that their quality of life is not impacted. It's only fair. Now should ABRA take their desires on face value? Of course not! ABRA needs to consider which requests are reasonable on their part and which aren't. Usually you'd have the ANC controlling the whole Volutanry Agreement and playing that role. But in this case the ANC has been co-opted by the restaurant and is not doing so. This makes the results less predicatable (for all parties) since ABRA in and of itself can't possibly know the 'lay of the land' as well as the ANC can.

Kevin said...

David, do you think we care about you boycotting The Saloon? The owner is famously "gruff." Get over it. Jahanbein is a good man who has done much for the community.

His bar. His rules. No standing means if there is no seat for your friend he has to go. What's so hard to understand about that? And I'd guess that you and your pals were not just loud but obnoxious, too.

Better that you go and The Saloon stays.

Anonymous said...

Lance -- And if I recall correctly, the restaurant/lounge on U Street that you reference was found not to be in violation of any ABC license obligations or regulations, yet this business was harassed for several years -- including the nightly videotaping of its gay and lesbian customers coming and going to the place -- by incessant calls to the fire marshal and police (numbering in the hundreds and which were all found to be baseless by the responding officials) and the ongoing license protests by Ramon Estrada, his lover, and his friends. News reports at the time demonstrated how that case represented a regulatory process gone wild, as allowed by the easy opportunity for small and unrepresentative license "protest groups" and ANCs to manipulate the process for years.

And THAT is what you want MORE of?!

Anonymous said...

Lance,

As someone who seems to hold himself out as an expert on this stuff, you really should pay more attention. It is well known that Estrada and/or his lover was involved in fights against such troublesome establishments as Masa 14, Cafe St. Ex., Bar Pilar and Policy. Not only that, but he almost singlehandedly brought all development in the neighborhood to a stop when he tried to have the zoning overlay enforced.

And I think it's widely known that the protestants in Hank's DO NOT live right there, but a block or so away.

Lance said...

@Anon 12:09,

I'm not sure if we're talking about the same place or not ... though I suspect we are because I remember reading about it. I remember that the newspapers seemed biased because anyone going anywhere near this place knew it was operating as a nightclub and not as the restaurant (or maybe 'tavern') that it was licensed to operate under. Considering that is a commercial area, operating a nightclub there
'might' be appropriate provided that it is licensed as such. But I don't believe this one was. Frankly, I think it was easier for the press to demonize an ANC commission doing their job than to demonize a tavern owner that had slipped in a nightclub without coming to an agreement with the neighbors on how it would be operated. I.e., we have another case here of an applicant not working with the people whose lives will be affected by their operations. No one is trying to stop anyone from doing anything. It's simply a matter of asking that everyone's interests be respected. I really don't see how anyone can be opposed to that.

Lance said...

And I think it's widely known that the protestants in Hank's DO NOT live right there, but a block or so away.

Not true. The two main protestants (which were named in the other posting), can literally put their heads out their front windows and hear people talking on the patio at Hanks ... If you doubt me, go walk by the sidewalk in front of their homes which are just across 17th on the opposite side of Hanks (on Q Street.)

There's been a lot of good PR out there that these neighbors aren't affected. It's good PR, but not true.

Anonymous said...

Lance,

Like i said, a block away. 1709 and 1711 q street, i believe. let anyone see for themselves:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=1709+Q+Street+Northwest,+Washington+D.C.,+DC&daddr=1624+Q+St+NW,+Washington+D.C.,+DC+20036&hl=en&geocode=FZm9UQId7nlo-ymJxUVTwbe3iTHmqfUX5uBuhA%3BFZO7UQId3X1o-yl7WIFEwbe3iTHT7b-wAu4NrQ&mra=ls&dirflg=w&sll=38.910867,-77.038115&sspn=0.001891,0.004774&ie=UTF8&ll=38.911115,-77.03862&spn=0.001891,0.004774&t=h&z=18

Anonymous said...

Lance -

Just because you call it a "nightclub" doesn't make it so -- the place (Cada Vez) was fully in compliance with its license class requirements (as a restaurant).

But I guess you think that compliance with the law doesn't matter if it doesn't comport with your opinion.

That is what is so crazy about these small protest groups -- like Ramon Estrada's little band of followers protesting everything under the sun -- trying to impose their little view of the world on everyone else.

I agree with the other commentator that if you are going to so repeatedly offer your opinion about the world according to YOU, you should at least have some working knowledge of the facts and DC regulations. Otherwise, your opinion is really irrelevant.

Mr. 14th & You said...

The point I was trying to raise with the issue of a "pub license" wasn't so much one of nomenclature, but rather that the city should recognize that class of establishments that exists between a full-service restaurant and an establishment that serves only alcohol. I really don't care what you call the license--call it "Fred"--the fact is there are establishments other than restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The city's liquor license laws do not reflect this.

Anonymous said...

I think revamping the food percentage or sales per table amount would be easier than coming up with a new license classification. I also think chsnging the number of protestants would be a way to alleviate some of the angst surrounding licenses. A jump from 5 to 10 would give the process a little more wieght and legitimacy i think.
tonyt
the pug

Lance said...

Anon,

Did you look at the google map you posted? distance: 285 feet. That's hardly 'a block away'.

This view with cars visible gives a better idea of the distance:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=1709+Q+Street+Northwest,+Washington+D.C.,+DC&daddr=1624+Q+St+NW,+Washington+D.C.,+DC+20036&hl=en&geocode=FZm9UQId7nlo-ymJxUVTwbe3iTHmqfUX5uBuhA%3BFZO7UQId3X1o-yl7WIFEwbe3iTHT7b-wAu4NrQ&mra=ltm&sll=38.911115,-77.03862&sspn=0.001511,0.004812&ie=UTF8&ll=38.911116,-77.038621&spn=0.000378,0.001203&t=h&z=20

Anonymous said...

Don't know that there is a good solution for the short term other than pursue a tavern license.

Other than more people (which hopefully means more eaters) and/or new menu items which hopefully people will eat), trying to raise the percent isn't going to be easy. And good luck trying to find another location without neighbors who will kick up a fuss.

Anonymous said...

Has there actually been a protest by local residents? Or are we jumping the gun a bit here and assuming that the Saloon will not be able to change their license without a fight?

Lance said...

@Anon Or are we jumping the gun a bit here and assuming that the Saloon will not be able to change their license without a fight?

Jumping the gun.

@14th and you ... Your question in the Hank's thread. If you think the answer is being able to 'check off the boxes' then you're missing the point on the underlying reason for an ABRA. It isn't to license someone who can any and every one who can meet certain criteria, it is to 'keep the peace' ... i.e., find ways to allow these places to operate ... without disturbing the peace ... i.e., to balance the needs of 'the many' vs. just giving 'the few' a green light for doing whatever they want to do. Do you see the difference? And the much greater value to society of the latter vs. the former?

Tyro said...

Enough, Lance. Enough. Apparently you want to drag your whining from the closed thread on Hank's over to here. We think you are completely wrong, and your defense of what were essentially lies and dishonesty on the part of the protestants was unacceptable, along with your inability to realize that such behavior and ABRA's tacit approval of such behavior is a blight on DC and bad for honest business people like Jahanbein.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Lance-

Keep it on the topic of the Saloon, please. This thread isn't about Hank's. Let it go.

Lance said...

Okay ... on topic.

We could create a 1000 different types of licenses ... with each of the 1,000 different types of licenses trying to capture all of the nuances inherent to 1,000'different' kinds of establishments serving alcohol ... But what would this get us? ... other than producing a list where the applicant can 'check off' that they meet the matching criteria for the 1 out of 1,000 different types of licenses that they happen to be.

It does nothing to address the issue here which is ensuring that a business which has a possibility of creating externalities that get paid for by the neighbors next door ... either doesn't occur and can be remedied in a rational and systemic fashion if they do occur.

In this particular case, the applicant can simply apply for the tavern license. His location is such that unless he's already been a bad neighbor, there are few neighbors who could/would object. This applicant is in a zone specifically set up for the type of business he operates ... and this zone has been operating as such forever.

Even with all its problems, the current system at least permits flexibility in the dos and don'ts to meet the overall objective of keeping the peace. Creating another category and giving more empowerment to 'the law' vs. 'reason' ... and plain old 'talking it out' doesn't do that.

Anonymous said...

Lance -

C'mon. "Plain old 'talking it out'" is definitely not the history or hallmark of the crude instrument and abused regulatory protest weapon known as the "Voluntary" Agreement. Such a suggestion flies in the face of how the process has unfolded for countless community establishments in the recent past. It is essentially a time-delay mechanism utilized to drag out the process long enough to force the capitulation of the applicant, despite the relative merits of the claims by a handful of naysayers with their own agenda.

Lance said...

@Anon,

I see your point and don't dispute it. Actually, that's why IMHO the ANCs should go out of their way to own the VAs within their jurisdictions. While the law (and practice) permits a VA to be between anyone and the applicant, the ANC carries a 'great weight' (by law) that the other parties to a VA don't. With the ANC participating in a VA to which it has ensured 'reason' and 'fairness' and 'balance', the applicant need not sign any other VA with anyone else ... since 'by law' the ANC's VA will trump the others before the judgement of ABRA.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Lance, a reminder that so-called "Voluntary" Agreements are not required to get a liquor license, which you seem to continue to presume (or, at a minimum, advocate) in your remarks.

This fact of the law is evidenced by more and more applicants refusing to kowtow to the attempt to impose one -- as well as the ABC Board's welcome stance (finally) in clarifying this legal reality and reminding applicants and protest groups (whether or not ANCs) and actually adjudicating matters without one.

And, of note, more instances of ANCs declining to attempt the imposition of such a license agreement, I would argue, is additional evidence that the sun is beginning to set on this license extortion as public disgust with the process is beginning to cause ANCs to think twice before riding that horse into the dirt!

Mr. 14th & You said...

ABRA seems to be moving towards increased skepticism of the VA process, at least the seeming arbitrary nature of certain aspects of them. That is why the ThaiTanic VA was rejected.

Lance said...

@Anom First of all, Lance, a reminder that so-called "Voluntary" Agreements are not required to get a liquor license, which you seem to continue to presume (or, at a minimum, advocate) in your remarks.

No, they're not required. The Board can rule without a VA in place. In most cases it actually does. And I don't advocate for VAs specifically. What I advocate for is some mechanism whereby there's a means of addressing the likely externalities that go hand in hand with the granting of a liquor license.

The alternative is a 'yes' / 'no' situation whereby we all lose. I.e., While some may view it as the applicant not 'having to appease' affected neighbors, I suspect it's really more along the lines of the applicant not getting the 'opportunity' to appease affected neighbors, and thereby get a license to operate/expand. The bar the applicant must jumpt over automatically gets set higher where there is no mechanism for the neighbors to say 'okay I won't protest ... but you'll have to x, y, z to give me assurance that I won't be hurt by your getting a license/expanding ... ' .

So, without a VA or some other means for the parties to come to agreement, what we'll end up with is a much more stringent application of the law ... And that is because when all is said and done, the ABRA Board, and the politicians who appoint them, are still subject to the 'politics' that come with having unhappy neighbors. If they don't have a means to keep the neighbors happy by including them in the process, they'll just be less apt to approve any application that is even the slightest questionable in terms of externalities on the neighbors ... even if the applicant and the neighbors could have worked it out between them if so encouraged 'by the system.

Anonymous said...

Re: Thai Tanic

For over eight years, Thai Tanic has had a Voluntary Agreement, with ANC 2F and other community signatories. This VA has helped establish Thai Tanic as as a good neighbor with true community support. And obviously, the VA has not kept Thai Tanic from running a successful restaurant business. In fact, it is expanding: Thai Tanic recently renegotiated VA terms with ANC 2F to allow for longer hours and greatly increased seating capacity.

It is true that the ABC Board initially rejected some specific terms of the amended agreement. However, ANC 2F and Thai Tanic worked to refine those terms, so that the amended agreement would be acceptable to the ABC Board. Thai Tanic's new, more liberal VA was approved back in July.

So in the end, this year's Thai Tanic case was actually a good example of a VA done right: meaningful compromise between a restaurant, its neighbors, the local ANC, and the ABC Board. Each group had a different perspective on the proposal for extended hours and increased capacity, but I think everyone is satisfied with how things turned out.

It is true that VA negotiation can be contentious and ugly, but it is not always so bad. Readers, please keep in mind: if your only source of information about these issues is blogs, then you are only hearing the facts that make for juicy gossip.

Look for Thai Tanic's new second-floor sushi bar to open next month. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Re "The alternative is a 'yes' / 'no' situation whereby we all lose" . . .

No, Lance, the only ones subject to losing in this game are the small bands of auto-protestors who have for so long abused the system through the manipulation of the "Voluntary" Agreement process -- using it as a sledgehammer to impose their limited preferences for the rest of us.

The winners are establishments who abide by applicable D.C. law and liquor license regulations and not subjective "Voluntary" Agreements which attempt to arbitrarily alter the legal obligations and privileges of an ABC license.

And, of course, the vast majority of neighborhood residents pleased to welcome new community establishments expanding the amenities of a vibrant and engaging urban environment and contributing to the city's core revenue source!

Mr. 14th & You said...

Anon - my comment wasn't meant to imply that ABRA is moving away from VAs, just that they're now placing them under greater scrutiny. One of my biggest problems with the VA process, aside from the fact that it is hardly "voluntary," is the seeming arbitrary nature that certain restrictions are imposed. One venue may have a mandated closing of 1AM on Saturday, whereas one down the street may have 2AM or even 3AM. That type of inconsistency is not only frustrating, but patently unfair.

As to Saloon, I completely understand the reticence to apply for a change to a tavern license. One need only go back to the deplorable negotiations that surrounded Saint Ex's request to do the same back in 2009 to understand why a business owner would not want to subject his or her establishment to that process.

Anonymous said...

One need only go back to the deplorable negotiations that surrounded Saint Ex's request to do the same back in 2009 to understand why a business owner would not want to subject his or her establishment to that process.

Didn't St. Ex's put a jammed nightclub into their basement before even bothering to ask for the change in zoning? Given that there are residences a few feet down that same street, it would be hard to justify a nightclub being permitted there. But also given the fact that they put one in there without bothering to request the change in zoning first, I have a hard time understanding how any could negotiate with with in the first place ... never mind negotiate 'deplorably'.

Lance said...

sorry, hit anom accidentally. 10:33 was mine.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't St. Ex's put a jammed nightclub into their basement before even bothering to ask for the change in zoning?"

Lance,
Once again, you have your facts wrong. St. Ex is not, and has never been, a nightclub and never asked for or received a zoning change. Although St. Ex has great food for which they are well known, since the days of and after Barton Seaver, they were harassed by ABRA because they did not keep their kitchen open until 2 hours before closing, which is the law for restaurants. There was little demand for food at that hour, so rather than paying kitchen staff to preside over an inactive kitchen, St Ex sought to convert to a tavern. Even though the operators are well respected business leaders with a long track record in the neighborhood, and even though they pledged that there would be no change in operation, Estrada, Raia, and the usual gang worked them over for a VA, costing Ex. money, time and aggravation. The result has been the conversion was approved, the business has a C/T, the sky didn't fall, the business didn't change, and people like you repeat the falsehoods that probably originated with Estrada or Raia when they were seeking support for their "protest".
Yea, great system, this voluntary agreement system. Leave us to be governed by the loudest crazies.

Lance said...

@Anon Once again, you have your facts wrong. St. Ex is not, and has never been, a nightclub and never asked for or received a zoning change.

Please ... I've been at that nightclub ... after a dinner out at the restaurant. We were having a late night dinner and started noticing dozens of younger folks entering the restaurant and heading for the back. (The time was maybe 9:30 or 10:00.) After we finished dinner we walked to the back ... and down the stairs ... to check it out. It was a nightclub pure and simple. Dozens of people standing around with drinks in their hands while a deejay blared out music. PLEASE don't try to say there wasn't a nightclub there ... And by the way this was maybe a month or two before I read in the paper that they'd been caught having a nightclub there without the correct licensing for it.

Anonymous said...

okay, okay, I agree YOU saw what you thought was a "nightclub", but there was no zoning change, and if you bother to just take a look at the ABRA website, you will see there is little difference among the classes of licenses. As long as the place meets its food minimums, it is allowed to have the activity you describe. I suspect your calling them lawbreakers is probably libelous. Further, the fact that you would suggest this great business pioneer in our neighborhood is somehow troublesome, such that they deserve having to deal with estrada and/or his lover filming the establishment and protesting their license, shows your true colors.

Anonymous said...

Lance, YOU don't get to decide what a "nightclub" is, what a "bar" is, and what a "restaurant" is -- the LAW does. This is the fallacy of the whole subjective process of single-minded narrow-interest protesting of liquor licenses by small groups who don't even know the regulations that determine license classifications and adherence to the rules.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Lance, you are simply wrong on this. Saint Ex was not advocating for any change in its operations by switching to a tavern license, they simply wanted to rid themselves of the food service requirement. I know this, as I was quite aware of the negotiations that were ongoing, and I remember all of the desperate behind-the-scenes maneuvering on the part of several of the protesters, to the point where they were chastised by ABRA for their actions--all to prevent Saint Ex from changing its license. Which they eventually did well over a year ago, and it has operated exactly as it had been operating for years prior to its license change. So what was gained by their actions? A lot of lost time, a lot of lost money, and absolutely no benefit to either the establishment or the community. It is a poster child of protestant overreach, and a great example of why so many residents are suspicious or downright hostile to the concept of residents protesting liquor licenses.

So, yes, the negotiations undertaken by a handful of protestants against Saint Ex were in fact deplorable. The protestants were not seeking a compromise, they were simply opposed. It's no wonder that other establishments are wary of embarking on what would likely be a months-long, costly battle to enact a change. All it takes is a few neighborhood residents with time on their hands and an axe to grind, and you're out a lot of time and money. But you'll get your license change anyway.

Lance said...

Given that the nightclub scene I witnessed occured before the ABC request you're detailing, then it follows that a request to relax the food requirement was being made because the restaurant was already operating outside the requirements of its license ... as you seem to support: all to prevent Saint Ex from changing its license. Which they eventually did well over a year ago, and it has operated exactly as it had been operating for years prior to its license change....

I can't think of a more inappropriate place to hold the kind of event I witnessed there. There are residences just a few feet down the sidewalk on the T Street side of the building.

Anonymous said...

But, Lance, as pointed out by another, a CR (restaurant) license specifically does not prohibit the bar/lounge activity you reference. The venue was well within the law in this regard under its previous license classification at the time.

Mr. 14th & You said...

"Given that the nightclub scene I witnessed occured before the ABC request you're detailing, then it follows that a request to relax the food requirement was being made because the restaurant was already operating outside the requirements of its license"

No it wasn't Lance, and your miscontruations of Saint Ex's situation serves to highlight the problem with this entire system. Nothing about the "nightclub" you describe was in violation of its license. But I'm not going to go back-and-forth with you on this--please offer up evidence as proof that Saint Ex was violating its license via its downstairs lounge other than your mere shock at finding such things going on.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14 and You, please offer up evidence as proof that Saint Ex was violating its license via its downstairs lounge

Didn't you already do that?:
it has operated exactly as it had been operating for years prior to its license change.

If the way it has been operating 'for years' didn't require a waiver of the food requirement in the first place, why would they be asking for the food requirement waiver? ... And only after the neighbors pointed out there was a problem there.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Lance, you do realize that Saint Ex was MEETING its food sales requirements, right? That their request for a change had nothing to do with any violations, right?

This is what I'm talking about. You're accusing them of being in violation absent any basis in fact for it. Saint Ex was never in violation of their license, they came forward on their own with the request to change it.

This kind of behavior is why establishments like the Saloon are reticent to request a change to their license class.

Anonymous said...

Amen.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You Saint Ex was never in violation of their license, they came forward on their own with the request to change it.

I will take your word on it. I.e., that the 'events' were relatively few and that the main business was still selling dinners. And that the change they requested was a 'going forward change' of a substantial nature.

Anonymous said...

Please note that neither 'qualification' is relevant to the law and the obligations of the license classification -- as the activity is not prohibited by the (at the time) CR (restaurant) license class and the fact that the legal determination of compliance with the (then) food sales requirement is evaluated strictly as a percentage of total sales (with the additional proviso that food be served until a time related to the closing time -- in fact, the very onerous obligation that motivated the licensee to seek relief from in the first place!).

What keeps getting lost with you, Lance, is that these criteria are not the subjective items you make them out to be!

Mr. 14th & You said...

Actually, to my knowledge they haven't changed their operations at all. The "substantial change" was in respect to their license classification, not their operations. My understanding was that the most significant factor in their decision to request a license change stemmed from the hours the CR license required them to keep a chef on premises.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You, First you say the change that was requested was waiving the food limit requirement, and now you're saying it is changing the hours that a chef be working. Is it both? Even if so, waiving the food limit requirement permits them to operate more like a nightclub and less like a restaurant if that's what they want? And that's most likely what the neighbors opposed.

Call it what you will, the end result is that the place can now legally serve more alcohol without serving more food ... Do you agree?

To me that is a substantial change. It's the difference between folks showing up between 7 and 10 and sitting down and having dinner, and showing up between 9 and midnight and standing around listening to music.

Am I wrong is assuming that St Ex's can do that now if it wants to?

Mr. 14th & You said...

"@Mr. 14th and You, First you say the change that was requested was waiving the food limit requirement, and now you're saying it is changing the hours that a chef be working. Is it both?

...

To me that is a substantial change. It's the difference between folks showing up between 7 and 10 and sitting down and having dinner, and showing up between 9 and midnight and standing around listening to music."


Lance, I really have to question how knowledgeable you are with regards to the city's license class requirements, as you've continually misrepresented the facts regarding them in this discussion and elsewhere. The "food limit requirement" which you mentioned goes hand-in-hand with the requirement to keep a chef on the premises until a particular time. This would all be part of the CR class definition of a "restaurant" which Saint Ex was attempting to remove themselves from.

What John Snellgrove (Saint Ex owner) said at the time--and which has proven true in the subsequent 14 months--is that Saint Ex had no intention whatsoever of changing its operations from what it had been doing for years.

As far as the difference between someone showing up for dinner and someone showing up to listen to music--what difference does that make? It was already happening, and was completely permissable under their license classification. Saint Ex continues do derive approximately 60% of its revenues from food sales, which is what it was doing before the class change. A small handful (and I do mean small--it was three people) did not want to accept that, and thus unnecessarily drew out the protest. Hence the community frustration.

What it boils down to is this: a few select residents in this neighborhood have shown, time and again, a propensity for being completely unreasonable in matters related to liquor license protests and related activities. It's not a great mystery why someone such as Jahanbein would not want to subject himself or his establishment to that process. I promise you the moment he applies to change his license from a CR to a CT, those individuals will tell all of us how such a move means the end of U Street as we know it.

Lance said...

@Mr. 14th and You What it boils down to is this: a few select residents in this neighborhood have shown, time and again, a propensity for being completely unreasonable in matters related to liquor license protests and related activities.

That's why I wish the ANC would take the lead in resolving such issues as an honest broker. At least if ANC commissioners act unreasonably, they can be replaced in elections ... IF the majority think their actions are unreasonable.

I remember a lot of folks in that corner of the neighborhood at the last election wanting to unseat commissioner Estrada. They didn't. Maybe that should be taken as an insight into that his views may have more acceptance by the majority of the folks out there than any of us would otherwise think possible. I hear there's another election coming soon ...