Residents have complained about late night noise and rowdy behavior associated with patrons of Barracks Row. I have tried to find out more about possible remedies, including the alcohol moratorium. I want to share the information I have found in a clear and helpful fashion. I also want to be frank in saying that I believe that the current ANC, including the current incumbent serving ANC 6b-04, have not been as helpful to the residents experiencing these problems as they ought to be.
Alcohol moratoria exist in several areas of the city, and two additional areas—Barracks Row and U Street—have recently expressed an interest in reviewing them either through an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) or their councilmember. (Here is a link to FAQs put up by the Glover Park Citizens Association regarding their moratorium, with secondary links to the actual agreements throughout the city: http://www.gpcadc.org/x-liquor.html)
Our ANC 6B has relegated consideration of a possible moratorium to the Special Retail Mix Taskforce. We already have resident members appointed to that committee, and I encourage a neighbor of Barracks Row to volunteer and accept appointment to that committee.
A decision on a moratorium would be issued by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA) Board, as are other regulatory decisions, such as alcohol licenses, and revisions or suspensions of these.
ABRA’s burden of proof for protesting a liquor license is on the protestors. There is an extremely helpful powerpoint presentation on exactly what ABRA weighs when it considers a liquor license protest (I am sending it in as an email attachment to contacts and will create a link to it on my website on Monday). Incorporated citizens groups that have certain membership criteria, like the Glover Park Citizens Association, carry weight with ABRA, as does police opinion and a paper trail of police reports. Five residents or more can also protest a license, and the presentation sets forth the criteria for doing so; an ANC may do so as well.
Moratoria carry an even greater burden of evidence. It is ABRA’s bluntest tool and they generally impose it on a wide area (5 block radius) considered deeply problematic in its entirety. The only ABRA moratorium that I know of which is limited or discrete in some sense is the current moratorium on the sale of singles (also supported by the police.)
I have not investigated this matter fully or to my complete satisfaction, but I do not at this point know of a record of police reports, etc., that would lead me to believe that ABRA would consider a moratorium for Barracks Row at this time.
At the same time, my research has suggested that there is a city-wide crisis in the crafting and enforcement of the so-called Voluntary Agreements, the specific and tailored agreements negotiated as part of securing a liquor license. Our neighbors to the north, ANC 6A, recently voted to protest ABRA’s dismissal of several Voluntary Agreements they had successfully negotiated. Foggy Bottom’s ANC recently voted to refuse to support renewal of a rowdy establishment with a history of fights, including one fight with the police, and ABRA still found the ANC’s logic “flawed.”
A realistic remedy to the problems of Barracks Row—one that we can pursue right now—is to demand a return to more stringent enforcement of Voluntary Agreements and to elect an ANC that will represent the residents’ voice in the negotiation and renewal of these.
On the eve of election day, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of our elected officials. We should not squander it. To that end, I have emailed presumptive Mayor-elect Vince Gray and I encourage you to do the same: email@example.com. My email, copied below, stresses the importance of returning to strenuous enforcement of Voluntary Agreements and expresses my desire to see the appropriate language for these clarified, as well as the appointment of an ABRA Board member familiar with our current problems on Capitol Hill and sympathetic to residents’ concerns.
I also believe the ANC, including the ANC Retail Mix Taskforce, should investigate appropriate zoning tools to attract more retailers by limiting the percentage of restaurants and taverns (as they are called) in a specially designated area like Barracks Row.
Why hasn’t our current ANC informed us of the appropriate mechanisms to protest a liquor license? Isn’t part of their function to facilitate our interaction with the city and its manifold bureaucracies? If elected ANC Commissioner, I would supplement the information on this with links to existing Voluntary Agreements. I would advocate that ANC6b adhere to its 1999 Guidelines for protesting liquor licenses, which insures ANC refusal to support renewals if the conditions of the Voluntary Agreement have not been upheld. The effectiveness of these guidelines depend upon recording resident complaints effectually – something our current ANC has not pursued. Finally, I would take the Retail Mix Taskforce and resident involvement in it seriously, and not just use it as a campaign tool to fend off the criticism and mounting concerns of our Barracks Row residents. It is inexcusable that this “Taskforce” was dormant for so long. There are tools at our disposal less severe and more achieveable than a moratorium, but we must have a motivated ANC in order to use them to good effect.
I have given this issue thought, but I do not know as much about it as I would like to. I welcome your comments.
To the Democratic Party DC Mayoral Nominee and Council Chair Vince Gray:
I write to express my serious concern about the current lack of alcohol Voluntary Agreement enforcement on Barracks Row, Capitol Hill, as well as to add my voice to ANC 6A’s recent vote to protest the confusion over ABRA’s abrupt departure from standard Voluntary Agreement language and their subsequent delay in clarifying what they would like to see.
Voluntary Agreements are important tools to ensure public safety and order, but only if they are enforced. I am dismayed by the current situation on Barracks Row and I sympathize with residential neighbors who have voiced serious noise and public disorder complaints.
I urge you to remedy this situation upon election and assumption of the Mayor’s office. I strongly encourage you to appoint a Board member to ABRA who is familiar with Capitol Hill and sympathetic to residents’ concerns.