Thursday, September 18, 2008

bloomingdale civic association meeting

(i'm a little remiss in not getting this information up on monday night right after the meeting, so i apologize for that. i do want to make sure that the neigborhood stays up-to-date on all the information that i can get out there regarding bloomingdale, and will be sure to have the blog back up to full speed very soon....)

on monday, september 15th, the bloomingdale civic association held its monthly meeting in the basement of st. george's episcopal church at the southeast corner of 2nd and U streets. representatives from howard university came by to talk about this year's homecoming parade, which takes place on october 18th. they wanted to make sure that all neighborhoods near the school, not just ledroit park, would be aware of what was happening.

a church representative updated everyone on the ongoing construction at the church (which is coming to an end soon). they will be holding an open house after the construction is finished (i forget what the date will be for that, but it will certainly be posted to the neighborhood listserv).

members from kwame brown's office stopped by to inform the civic association that they would continue to be available to help constituents in the area. ms. cassandra costley, the association president, asked if there would be follow-up by the councilmember's office in response to the meeting that took place in june at big bear. we were informed that there is ongoing dialogue concerning how to help new businesses on both north capitol and new york avenue.

the big reason that everyone (everyone being approximately 10 people....c'mon, bloomingdale, do you have any neighborhood pride or not? show up at your meetings and make your voice heard!) came to the meeting, though, was to hear what had to be said regarding the proposed restaurant/tavern/bar at the corner of 1st and T, NW, and its liquor license.

there was about 45 minutes of serious discussion regarding how the establishment would affect the neighborhood. one resident was opposed to the license and asked how it could be guaranteed that the business would not get a license. another resident, a member of shiloh baptist church in shaw, told those in attendance that his church had spent $40,000 fighting the liquor license of queen of sheba restaurant, and they had failed. he warned that he felt the liquor license would be granted regardless of what happened at the meeting.

in the end, discussion seemed to coalesce around the idea that most in the neighborhood were welcoming of the possibility of a restaurant in the neighborhood, but the consensus was that the ownership needs to be more serious about their application (it was riddled with errors, some comical, some serious), they need to conduct more outreach with neighbors, and they need to present a serious business plan to assuage fears that this restaurant isn't well planned.

now, i've made it clear that i'm in favor of this establishment opening up on the block where i live. i think it has the ability to be the tipping point that helps bloomingdale's "main street" (1st street) become a viable little commercial strip. we have some good businesses now, but i feel this would help us prove there is enough foot traffic around here to fill up the other vacant places on the block. there is talk of a yoga studio moving in, and it was announced that kumon learning centers is planning to move in to the long-vacant shell next door to the proposed restaurant. but i agreed with the civic association when it voted in favor of a formal resolution protesting the liquor license application for "baraki".

the ownership needs to make an effort to reach out to the neighbors and the official neighborhood organizations in bloomingdale. as kris hammond notes, anc 5c voted to challenge the license as well. unfortunately, the term "protest" sounds more confrontational than it needs to be regarding this process. it's the only way that an official neighborhood organization can get on the agenda at the meeting when the license proposal will come before the ABRA.

ms. costley stated that she is in favor of baraki opening up in our neighborhood, and she will be the voice representing the civic association at the license hearing. but she wants the owners to answer some questions, fix up their application, and compromise with the neighbors over issues like parking, trash, noise, and opening hours. i agree with her. if the restaurant owners aren't willing to come to the neighborhood and discuss these things (no one representing the owners showed up at the meeting), then they're going to find quickly that they'll be in trouble. humbly coming before the neighbors, looking to become a neighbor yourself, would do them well here in bloomingdale. i hope the owners are listening.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree. As a home owner only a few blocks down from Baraki, I don't feel like their business plan is any of my business. I only hope that the would help expedite the process of getting the tavern open.

IMGoph said...

t unit: i hear you and would generally agree with you, but the fact is that the civic association and the ANC have great weight, both legally and figuratively in this case, and it would be in the owner's best interests, both financially and for his own peace-of-mind, to do more outreach to the neighborhood.

giving at least a sketch of a business plan would be better than just saying, "it's all in my head" (which is what he apparently did).

Anonymous said...

Did I miss something? This still the same owner of Veranda, right?
They are already doing us a favor by opening up a tavern in our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I've been to both Veranda and the Marx Cafe, their other two properties with liquor licenses, and they are both operated responsibly. They put a lot of time and money into Veranda's interior, and it shows. I hope they will do this same with this property and would be happy to have it as a nearby resource.

Anonymous said...

The owner came to the community to take questions this weekend at Windows Cafe. How many days a week should he spend at meetings with us? We should feel lucky someone with a positive track record wants to open a nice -- small -- business in our neighborhood. The city should be giving him a development GRANT to open this business. You can't sugarcoat the meaning of a "protest." It all boils down to people who don't understand business abusing ABRA to impose overly restrictive cooperative agreements that meddle in an operation that has not given the community any cause for concern. Does anyone really think this little pizza joint is going to become a noisy dance club? Why not protest the stumblebums across the street and let this guy open so there's at least ONE business open at night around here.

IMGoph said...

use a name, or i'm cutting you off, anonymous.

have you seen the application for the license? it has massive inacuracies. for example, it says the closest rec center is stead park. everyone in bloomingdale knows the right answer to that question is harry thomas rec center over on lincoln ave.

i want this place here. badly. don't think that i'm pushing for them to not get the license. but damnit, if you're going to wade into something controversial, like a liquor license, dot your i's and cross your t's. sloppy stuff like that is stupid. you're just leaving yourself open to unnecessary criticism if you can't be more careful than that.

Anonymous said...

What does a rec. center have to do with getting a liquor license? The only comical thing about that is why a liquor license application would even ask that. Why stop there why not ask him what he ate for breakfast or if he was on the grassy knoll on November 22, 1963. Seriously though, irrelevant application questions only concern people who are looking to nit-pick.

IMGoph said...

t unit: you can complain about it all you want, but the fact is that there are people out there who are concerned about the proximity of liquor licenses to places where children are. schools, rec. centers, daycare centers, etc., all fall under this. that's why it's on there.

and it's not some neighborhood group asking for this information, it's the city government. the abra board. i'm not telling you any of this to be short, but it's just the facts. you have to play by the rules of the game, and those are the rules right now.

Anonymous said...

Your right, it's not your rules. And I would just vent my issues with the ridiculous DC bureaucracy on Whyihatedc but that blog lost its vision.

Anonymous said...

"people out there who are concerned about the proximity of liquor licenses to places where children are. schools, rec. centers, daycare centers, etc., all fall under this. that's why it's on there."

If that is enough cause for concern to potentially keep Baraki from opening.... then about a dozen liqour stores in the general vicinity of Harry Thomas Rec. Center should not have their licenses removed.

Protesting the Baraki license is analogous to Shiloh Baptist protesting the Vegetate license. It is anti-development, at a minimum. And as a previous thread here indicated; protesting the Baraki license could very well be a racist action meant to keep folks out of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating that Shiloh shows any concern for the community at all.

Given the track record of their Maryland-based congregants and officials of trying to keep development from taking place in Washington DC, I guess it isn't too surprising. Fascinating, but not surprising.

Mari said...

^\There's an anonymous comment, delete it, delete it now.
Anyway, Bloomingdale is a good spot for some businesses. Big Bear had community buy in way before it opened, getting us all excited and look at it's sucess. Other Bloomingdale businesses have worked with and welcomed folks in the community and in the long run I think both the owners and the residents win.
I'd like Baraki to suceed, but I highly doubt it will without the support of those who are the would be patrons.... the community and their friends.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please elaborate on the controversy surrounding the opening of Vegetate? Some of us are still "new" to the 'hood and we don't have all of the history referenced in this thread of comments. It would be much appreciated.

As for the potential opening of this "pizza joint," we have the owners applied for liquor license for a "TAVERN," when anecdotally we hear it being called everything else under the sun, from a local pizza parlor (which I agree this neighborhood sorely needs) to a noisy night club to a bar to a "local food establishment," which is most likely.

There's a great play at Arena Stage right now that focuses on a small neighborhood business - a family-owned health foods stor opened in the 'hood, where all you see is "FRIED FOOD, FAST FOOD, and LIQUOR."

The playwright could've been talking about Bloomingdale.

And that's just sad.

si said...

Shiloh Baptist Church has spent years protesting Vegetate & Queen of Sheba. Both these businesses went through a huge ordeal to get their licenses though they had broad community support. Its really incredible they survived. I attended multiple hearings for both establishments, Shiloh would pack the room with church ladies.

The other 9th st business that went thru this was BeBar which was protested by Scripture Cathedral.

Part of the difficulty also was the dysfunctional nature of ANC 2C, which is a big bad saga. (you all better VOTE!)

The churches never protest a liquor store or Giant, even if its across the street.

Anonymous said...

"It all boils down to people who don't understand business abusing ABRA to impose overly restrictive cooperative agreements that meddle in an operation that has not given the community any cause for concern."

That's not necessarily so AT ALL. A protest in fact is the only way that even welcoming and supportive neighbors can have any measure of assurance that the license (you always protest the license, which is permanent and not the owners, who can and do come and go) will keep the trash clean and not sell 2 fer $1 shooters 'till 3AM.

si said...

ABRA does not allow parties to testify in support of an applicant. you have to "protest"
its totally wierd.

Anonymous said...

Time, as measured in terms of a 30 year mortgage, is long. The average life of a restaurant- 3-5 years- is short. And this neighborhood restaurant is applying for a Tavern license- which means they technically don't need to sell *any* food- nor would the next owner if the license is granted.
More likely than not, the applicant wants to open a nice and welcome neighborhood place, like the others they own, but proper precautions with an eye to the future are still wise.
Mark again

Anonymous said...


as i recall, the issue Shiloh brought up with Vegitate and Sheba was they they were too close to a school to serves alcohol. there is a legal distance a place must be, but..if i remember correctly, not a standardized way of measuring that distance. ie.. door to door by foot, or closest brick to closest brick as the crow flies.

that legal distance thing is prolly why Harry Thomas Rec Center was mentioned.


Sean Hennessey said...

Anonymous said...

I attended the meeting last week when the applicant came from running his other place over to speak to the concerned citizens of the community.

I decided to leave ultimately because the tone of the meeting became so brash, unmanaged and unprofessional that I was embarrassed to be associated to it.

Here's my experience of what happened. A good-sized group had congregated for an entire hour of their (and my) precious Sunday pulling together a list of legitimate questions.

Then, about a minute before the applicant arrived another neighbor showed up and began the conversation on a tremendously rude and confrontational note.

When everyone was asked to tell their name and where they lived as an introduction to the discussion this individual sarcastically said, "I won't tell you my name because I'm sure you won't remember it." Nice "neighborly" start huh? Then, for some reason (even though he has just arrived and he is not running this meeting) this dude gives himself the first question, which was something to the effect of, "Tell me how you will guarantee that my property value will increase if I let you open this restaurant?" The owner was not fazed by the directness/rudeness/unanswerableness of the question and made a reasonable response, which discussed the positive impact that restaurants have had in property values in Logan, Adams Morgan and U Street.

Mr. Mad then got into a stare down with the applicant about whether that constituted "proof" and eventually walked out of the meeting.

Within about 10-20 minutes of continued conversation many of the reasonable concerns of the community had been addressed.

The two clearest problems seemed to be the occupancy on the application (a proposed 90 on the application) and the size of the building. When asked, the owner reported that he planned to have seating for only 40 and that ultimately it was the city that determined occupancy. In other words, he would not be allowed to cram too many folks in as the city determined what would fly.

The second reasonable question was about the number of people on the patio and the hours of operation.
The applicant explained that at Verdana he does not seat people outside after 9pm. (the group had been afraid that people would be outside until midnight).

You'd think that the meeting participants would be happy that he'd just voluntarily cleared up key legitimate issues in their favor but one participant got very focused on whether she should be allowed to determine what type of music was played in the restaurant.

As you can imagine...
It went downhill fast.
And it was unbearable.

I wish him all the luck in the world. I've only been to Verdana so I cannot speak for everything he's ever done... but I can say that restaurant is so mild you could easily bring your grandma.

I can also say that, as with everything, very reasonable people, with very reasonable concerns can be made to look unreasonable when drowned out by a few unreasonable voices. Future meetings should be managed in a manor to allow dissent without the scorched earth policy that undermined the usefulness of the Windows meeting I attended.

Anonymous said...

was this meeting announced to the public?

Longtimer said...

I've lived here in Bloomingdale in the same house since 1986, and have seen and lived through a lot. I never thought I would live to see decent businesses open here in the neighborhood.

I'm shocked by the NIMBYs out there suspicious of any small business owner not meeting some sort of Berkeley-type standard. Yes, outreach to the neighborhood would be nice and good business. However, if Mr. Duni was a first time business owner, and a complete unknown, I could better understand the concern. I've walked by Veranda a number of times at rush hour, and it's a quiet, respectable place.

I also understand the complaints about incorrect applications, but would leave that to the city to iron out (btw, imgoph, you spelled "inacuracies" wrong in one of your postings). You're worried that the owner doesn't know the right name of a local rec center? Geez, I've lived here for 22 years, and I don't know the name of that or any of the rec centers. Yeah, he should have done his homework, but he's opening a tavern/restaurant - not a charter school.

I suggest taking a closer look at the guy's other businesses and then deciding.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to offer this wisdom: It really doesn't matter what the owner says at a community meeting. It matters what is on paper. By that I mean what is on the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and the Public Space applications. If those two applications say "40 people, outdoor seating closed at 9 PM", and if neighboring people are fine with that, than good. Very good. It's settled.
But, if the applications are (and they too often are) sloppily filled out for 2 and 3 AM (the "maximum legal" closing times), and if they say 120 people, than the ANC would do well to poll the neighbors' opinions, and further discussions might be warranted.
Hey, I like dining, drinking, and sidewalk cafes. But I've also been around the block a few times. Remember, you're approving a license, not an owner, and most licenses will be sold sooner or later
Mark, again

Anonymous said...

I'd like to offer this wisdom: Beggars can't be Choosers. So weather the owner wants to open a pizza restaurant that offers cocktails and wine, like he's stated over and over again. Or he want's to open a lively bar that is open until 3 am I will welcome it with open arms and without restriction.

IMGoph said...

longtimer: i hear your concerns, and thanks for calling me out on my misspellings! proof positive that no one is perfect, i say.

let me make this clear, since i feel that some of the people reading this post are not getting my point entirely, as i may not have made it clear enough:

i want this bar/tavern/pizza place here. period. i personally don't care about the location of a rec center WRT the business either, but the fact is that the ABRA asks that you put that information on your license application.

i also know that a determined group of individuals can derail the application for a license. so, the reason i want to ride the owner and his lawyer to perfect their application is to ensure that that determined opposition can't derail the application on ticky-tack grounds. leaving no back doors open for attack is what i'm getting at here.

Anonymous said...

Good to know, T.
Has anyone in the community seen a copy of the actual application?
M, again.

Anonymous said...

Actually, a tavern license does require an establishment to have food available, but bags of potato chips meet this requirment. A restaurant license, on the other hand, is cheaper than a tavern license, but sets a minimum food sales requirement as percentage of overall sales. DC has only recently begun to enforce this requirement, which is why you suddenly saw a lot of places in Adams Morgan try and switch from restaurant licenses to tavern licenses. I imagine that the Duni brothers are trying to hedge their bets by getting a tavern license because they are unsure how much of a market there is for a full-scale restaurant in this community and don't want their business to be hampered by miniumum food sales requirements. This does not mean that they can't or won't serve good food. There are some places serving great food that only have a tavern license (Granville Moore's comes to mind).

Sean Hennessey said...

what's next?

IMGoph said...

well, the hearing is on monday. is anyone going?

Sean Hennessey said...

damn, i can't.