So soon did lose his seat and all at once – King Henry V, Act I, Scene 1
Seats are wonderful things. They allow us to stop standing, at least for a little while. They also allow us to eat sitting down. And drink. And drive cars to restaurants in order to eat or drink sitting down. And in Georgetown, anything that might attract more people in cars to anything is immediately viewed with suspicion. So it is from that observation that GM turns to the great Seat Moratorium War of 2009. Skirmish One of this war took place last night at the ANC meeting, and it was just one of the highlights of the last ANC meeting till September.
Before you fight the battle, open this letter – King Lear, Act V, Scene 1
A little background: Last year CAG and the ANC fought Morton’s of Chicago’s application to add 34 outdoor seats to its restaurant on Prospect St. CAG and the ANC argued that the block is “over saturated” and that the situation was starting to adversely affect the peace and quiet of the surrounding neighborhood and cause pedestrian and vehicular safety concerns. The ABC board ruled against CAG and the ANC but in dicta communicated that they’d be willing to listen to an application for a moratorium on more outdoor or indoor seating requests. CAG took that suggestion and ran with it.
Skip ahead to last night.
The ANC considered whether to join CAG in its application for a moratorium on additional seating at the Georgetown Court complex. If granted, the moratorium would mean that no ABC license holder could add more seats than they currently are permitted for. (A restaurant not serving alcohol would not be subject to the moratorium).
Witness for the prosecution, CAG’s ABC expert Karen “Cookie” Cruse, made an impassioned argument that the block was too dense and that they could not keep fighting each new expansion request. Cruse retold the story of the Morton’s ABC decision and explained that they were merely walking through the door the board left open.
The owner of Georgetown Court, Robert Elliott, made a similarly impassioned argument. He stated that the assertions underlying CAG’s request were false and that he is a good land lord that makes sure only respectable establishments rent out his space. He argued that a moratorium will put undue restrictions on his ability to attract “good” restaurants, citing to a recent example where a Japanese restaurant backed out on a proposal to take over a vacant space due to their inability to get more seating.
More pointedly, Elliott argued that procedurally the ANC was out of line. He stated that he was presented with a nine page complaint only 90 minutes before the meeting filled with assertions that he disputes. He stated that he attempted to work with CAG but was rebuffed. He pointed a finger squarely at the ANC and accused them of acting improperly by preparing this document in secret.
Ron Lewis dismissed Elliott’s claims out of hand. He stated that the ANC didn’t prepare the document, it was CAG. He admonished Elliott not to waste his time arguing procedural matters. Elliott responded that the decision was clearly already made and that he merely wanted to make it clear that he thought the ANC was acting improperly.
The resolution to join CAG’s application for the moratorium was passed 4-1, with Aaron Golds casting the lone nay.
In GM’s opinion there is some merit to Elliott’s complaint. While the ANC did not itself prepare the “secret document”, by joining CAG’s application it essentially adopted its findings. And it did so without allowing the affected party adequate time to review and respond to the accusations. These are not mere “procedural matters”. If the ANC was truly open to hearing Elliott’s response, than it would only be fair to give him a chance to adequately defend himself. If it was just a kangaroo court where the decision was already made, than that’s also unseemly and gives the appearance that the ANC outsources its ABC decisions to the unelected CAG.
In GM’s view, either the ANC had no role in the preparation of CAG’s application and was truly reviewing the application de novo last night (unlikely) or the ANC was coordinating with CAG the whole time and thus Lewis’ claims that the ANC didn’t work on the “secret document” are disingenuous. Which is it?
Lewis argued that this was a long time coming, and that Elliott was plenty aware of the substance of the complaints. Fair enough. But the proceedings still left a bitter taste in GM’s mouth.
Tawny-finn’d fishes; my bended hook shall pierce – Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene 5
Fighting the evils of seats wasn’t the only thing on Cruse’s mind last night. Also before the ANC was an application by Jonathan Umbel to essentially merge Tacklebox and Hook into one restaurant (legally, not physically) for the purposes of bringing Tacklebox under Hook’s liquor license. Tacklebox had attempted to purchase its own license, but the deal fell through when it became clear that the license in question was encumbered by too many tax liens.
Merging under one license was a creative way around the current moratorium on new liquor licenses in Georgetown. Creative, but not winning. While the ANC was prepared to approve the change to Hook’s voluntary agreement to allow the change, Cookie Cruse stood up and argued that while she loved Hook and Tacklebox, she was afraid this would set a bad precedent. Citing back to negative experiences with the old Pied du Cochon, she argued that it would create a huge loophole around the moratorium (which was exactly how Umbel planned to use it). Cruse made it pretty clear that CAG would oppose the change to the voluntary agreement, and since they’re party to the agreement, that would seem to be that. Umbel offerred to work with Cruse, CAG, and the ANC to hammer something out, but GM doubts any resolution will include Umbel’s creative solution.
Someday we’ll be able to have a beer with our lobster rolls at Tacklebox. It’s just not going to be all that soon.
O, were mine eyeballs into bullets turn’d – King Henry VI, Part I, Act IV, Scene 7
OK, this round up is already way, way too long. Too the bullets then!
- Potentially huge news for upper East Village: the Hurt Home has been surplussed. The District is now entertaining offers for potential leasees or purchasers of the large property across from Montrose Park.
- The quaint little bridges over the canal will be undergoing a major three year renovation. Each bridge will be shut down for roughly one year each, starting with 30th st. Work should begin in mid August.
- Ristorante Piccolo is applying for a roof deck along Blues Alley. Complications remain…
- Rare drama on Ristorante Piccolo’s application to change its signage: Bill Starrels proposed a resolution denying the application, and the poor guy couldn’t even get a second. Solomon countered with a resolution approving the signage and it passed 3-1. Snap. GM’s never seen a commissioner get shot down like that over a matter within his own SMD.
- Finally, Iceland is apparently moving its embassy to the House of Sweden. Cost cutting move for the newly impoverished island nation?
5 responses to “ANC Roundup: Moratoriums get Moratoriumier”
So adding seats for people increases car traffic, but adding seats for cars (parking spaces) doesn’t increase car traffic? That makes no sense.
I wish we could defer all of these decisions to a future day when we have performance parking throughout the neighborhood. If we do performance parking right, such that there actually is 1 space per block available most of the time at a market rate, then reducing density will no longer be the solution to our car issues.
Ken I agree that performance parking is something we should be working towards in Georgetown. In this case, though, it seems like the automobile issue was only part of it. It’s the noise question too.
I’m of two minds on it. I think reflexive anti-density opinions are harmful for the long-term vitality of our commercial districts and I think an irrationality governs all discussions of traffic and parking in Georgetown.
That said, I can understand a desire to keep this property from producing even more foot and car traffic. It is off of the main commercial strip and it is pretty built out already. Capping seats is not exactly like building surface parking lots next to metro stop or something.
What I have a discomfort with is the draconian use of a moratorium and the manner in which the ANC is seeking one. The fix was clearly in on Monday night. Elliott never had a chance to sway the ANC’s opinion. Ok, so the Commissioners’ minds were made up. Fine. But if it’s such an open and shut case, why not give Elliott more time to respond? And how much of the 9 page complaint was anecdotal evidence from a few particularly angry neighbors?
Maybe Elliott was skewing the facts himself. I don’t know, but I get a sense that the ANC decided long ago to pursue the moratorium and no “mere procedure” like fair notice and hearing was going to get in its way.
No offense to you Gtowners. I love your neighborhood. But it appears that the charges of blantant nimbyism are very well-deserved.
Some of those neighbors should loosen up and realize they do not rule or own the world. Geez.
Pingback: Dixie Liquors Keeps Singles Ban Exemption Despite Strongly Worded ANC Resolution «
Pingback: Two Big Decisions From ABC Board «