Wednesday, April 7, 2010

DCRA Set to Enforce 25% Bar/Restaurant Restriction Along 14th and U Streets

EDIT (4/8/2010): The Mid-City Business Association has a good breakdown of the ruling and who it will affect on their website. Also, a nice review of the Arts Overlay District's purpose, which was something I didn't delve into my post from last night.

EDIT #2: DCist has now gotten into the act, and the commentariat are doing their thing.


Earlier this week, Matthew Le Grant, the Zoning Administrator for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, announced that the office would no longer be granting certificates of occupancy to bars and restaurants throughout the Arts Overlay District, without those businesses first seeking--and obtaining--an exception from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

ANC2B commissioner Ramon Estrada and ANC1B commissioner Peter Raia had approached DCRA and asked that the so-called "25% rule" pertaining to bars and restaurants throughout the Arts Overlay District be enforced.

The Arts Overlay District, which includes the commercial corridors of 14th Street, U Street, and 9th Street, along with stretches of 7th Street and Florida Ave, includes a provision forbidding bar and restaurant establishments from taking up more than 25% of the linear frontage of space along those streets. In Le Grant's communication, he noted that DCRA had recently completed its survey of the Arts Overlay District, and learned that the percentage of linear frontage consisting of bars and restaurants in the District was currently at 24.88%. "With this," he wrote "my office will not approve any new building permit or certificate of occupancy applications for additional eating and drinking establishments as a matter of right."

The decision will take affect immediately, and apply to any project that does not yet have its certificate of occupancy.

The net affect of this decision has yet to be seen, but in all likelihood it will be more symbolic than anything. BZA is notoriously supportive of bars and restaurants throughout the 14th and U Street corridors, and it is likely that any bar or restaurant with a solid business plan that would improve the neighborhood will obtain the exemption.

In the event that the decision begins to have a negative impact on development throughout the area, expect to see a strong push from those within the community for the adoption of the recommendations put forth last year by the Arts Overlay Committee, which included a recommendation for raising the allowable amount of bars and restaurants in the area to between 40-50% linear frontage.

As I wrote at the time, I feel that such a limit is both appropriate and sensible, considering the ongoing development and growth of the Arts Overlay District. It's peculiar that a push would be made at this time to enforce the existing 25% rule, but so long as neighborhood development is not adversely impacted, the decision merely represents the enforcement of a law that remains on the books.

Those wishing to learn more about the recommendations of the Arts Overlay Committee may do so at the ANC2F's website.


Anonymous said...

The Zoning Board of Appeals process takes about 4 to 6 months to play out.

Mr. 14th & U claims that the zoning board is pro-business, but what business can sign a lease, wait FOUR to SIX months while paying rent, before even being able to get a building permit?

This is bad, bad, bad for the 14th Street and U Street corridors.

Hope everyone likes the way Cleveland Park looks, with tons of empty retail, because that's where 14th Street is headed.

Anonymous said...

4-6 months on lawyer/architect fees, community meetings, and one more hurdle to trip up businesses from ever getting approved in this economy. This is not a symbolic gesture, it is a calculated waste of community resources.

Three individuals decided to request enforcement, even though three ANC's, several neighborhood associations, the business association, all supported adopting the recommendations of the ANC 2F arts overlay committee, realizing that the overlay was an outdated tool as is and had been proven ineffective.

26 ANC commissioners in three commissions voted to expand the limit, but because these three did not get their way, they circumvented the community will and imposed their own at the expense of the community resources.

Anonymous said...

You make this sound like it is just ABC establishments affected, this applies to coffee shops, sandwich shops, basically any non-grocery eating establishment is affected.

JJ's Philly Cheesesteak, a great addition, would now need a zoning variance to open today and would be forced to absorb all those extra costs.

Anonymous said...

Estadio would need a variance too. So would whatever is going to open in the long-vacant building on the NE corner of 14th and U.

This is a disaster.

I totally get the sentiment that having 100% bars is not a good answer (See Adams Morgan), but what the Arts Overlay Review Committee ( proposed was raising the cap on restaurants from 25% to 40% or 50%.

A 40 or 50% limit sounds totally reasonable to me, and it would afford a good balance in the neighborhood.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

"You make this sound like it is just ABC establishments affected, this applies to coffee shops, sandwich shops, basically any non-grocery eating establishment is affected."

Correct, although throughout the post it references both bars and restaurants (not simply alcohol-serving establishments). But, yes, this would affect anything from coffee shops to full-on bars.

Tina Irgang said...

Dear Mr. 14th & You,

I am a graduate student at the UMD journalism college and I'm working on a project about the recent development of 14th Street. I would love your input on what happened in the past decade or so and what the future of 14th Street is likely to be, e.g. considering the new regulations for bars/restaurants. I can be reached at Thanks very much! Tina

Anonymous said...

The ANC is filled with a bunch of jerks! These guys are antibusiness and anti-development. The only thing they brought our neighborhood was Room and Board FAIL. They want the neighborhood to return to the 80s...quiet, tons of parking. VOTE THESE PEOPLE OUT. THEY ARE DESTROYING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. Get active and go to the ANC meetings and challenge these guys. They are making decisions that impact ALL of us. Go north of U and go to 14th and P. Then go to the area in sucks. The ANC protested MASA 14, they protested Policy, they protested Saint Ex. The would probably even protest a coffee shop!!!!!! I live in the area and I am tired of this. Our section of 14 looks like crap and I know it takes a while for things to develop but why does it seem like things are happening fast north and south?!?!?! Sorry for the rant, I am just really frustrated and think we need a movement to change things.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon, I think a little perspective is in order. While I'll be the first to condemn a bad decision by an area ANC, it's important to note that the ANCs were not involved with this action. This was largely the work of two ANC commissioners, and a member of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, acting independently. The ANCs in Logan, U Street and DUpont were nearly unanimous in their support of the recommendations of the Arts Overlay Committee, which included the raising the allowable cap on restaurants and bars.

Also, it's important to understand what an ANC "protest" is. It doesn't mean that the ANC is opposed to the business; rather, it is an effort to gain leverage in order to negotiate things like operating hours, noise, trash and so forth. Sure, the process gets abused--sometimes absurdly so. But they can be useful to area residents as well. As with most things, it's a balancing act.

Anonymous said...

its about time

Anonymous said...

What this does is limit the options for any of the currently vacant properties, while inflating the value of the existing c of o, for those properties that are licensed as "an eatery" or whatever definition they used.

KStreetQB said...

I kinda hope this results in an expansion eastward of businesses to fill some of the streets, like 9th, that have a bunch of abandoned commercial properties.

Anonymous said...

KStQB, I'd agree that might be a positive by-product but 9th (and 11th & 7th) Sts are included in the ARTS Overlay- at least stretches of them. Which of course is ridiculous because those areas are certainly not suffering from an over-abundance of drinking & dining establishments.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this means we will likely get more nightclub applications as they will only have to go before ABC, since the zoning ruling does not apply to them!

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

OK, a couple of misonceptions to clear up.

The rule applies to all food- and drink-serving establishments, which includes nightclubs. The actual definition of a "drinking place" in the current regs is a "bar, nightclub, or cocktail lounge." So no worries there.

Secondly, regarding 9th Street, the 25% rule applies only to 14th and U streets. Even thought the Arts Overlay extends to stretches of 7th, 9th and Florida, those streets were excluded from the 25% stipulation.

Anonymous said...

Mr 14th&U - Where are you getting the information stating that the other areas (9th st etc) are not effected? I'm unable to find that. Thanks