Should Everyone Have the Right to Protest RIA Businesses On Their Own?

courtesy of NPR

In June, Hank’s Oyster Bar’s liquor license caused a stir that has culminated in a hearing of a bill that will change how residents can address or protest a business’ application for a license.The Washington City Paper has done a good job of covering this issue.

A bill is scheduled to be introduced at a DC Council hearing and is sponsored by Councilmember Jim Graham and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jack Evans and Yvette Alexander. One of the major changes in this bill will change the proximity requirement for protest groups from a 600 feet radius to only 400 feet from the business.

Should you be concerned?

Depends on your view of redevelopment for RIA and how close you live to it. As RIA NE continues to see positive redevelopment, more residents want sit down restaurants which could result in outdoor seating areas especially along the “Main Street” area between 18th and 24th Street. The protestors of Hank’s license say that their outdoor seating expansion violated a voluntary agreement the restaurant made with the community. On one hand, it could limit your ability to address issues with local businesses as they come to RIA and on the other, it could discourage businesses from wanting to take a chance on RIA (here is an example of residents already protesting a liquor license along RIA).

Just because it isn’t happening along RIA doesn’t mean it won’t affect us in the long run. Either way, I am sure that this issue will come back to us as our Avenue starts to become our “Diamond in the District”.

The hearing starts at 11 am, and will take place in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building. If you wish to speak at the hearing, you need to be on the witness schedule. Contact Malcolm Cameron at mcameron[AT]DCCouncil.com or (202) 724-8191.

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7 thoughts on “Should Everyone Have the Right to Protest RIA Businesses On Their Own?

  1. The major problem on RIA is the trash. Will outdoor seating produce more trash? Flip-it has outdoor seating which is very much underused. Any of us who daily travel RIA know how noisy and dirty it is from the trucks, and other vehicles. Island Jim’s at 901 Monroe shields it outdoor seating area with a fence. That may be the best solution on RIA and Dupont Circle to give the diners/drinkers privacy, comfort, and protection.Flip-it doesn’t have a liquor license. I don’t now if they plan to. I really don’t eat there because it doesn’t have the variety I want. Denny’s is much nicer, but still could have better menu choices.

    I think community agreements should be mandatory. But the stigma associated with them needs to change. The city or mayor at will can allow liquor stores to stay open till midnight and restaurants till 5 am. Residents, even those who are not within 300 ft, 400 ft, or 600 ft. should be allowed to have a community agreement with these establishments. I’ve only been once to the Dupont Circle area this year. Like Georgetown, these areas really appears to be making a comeback after years of decline. The question is who are they really serving? It doesn’t appear to be the residents.

  2. It’s hard to understand how outdoor seating at sit-down restaurants will produce more trash. Outside of an errant napkin that blows away from a diner, places with outdoor seating generally serve their customers on the same tableware they do indoors, which does not blow away or get thrown away. In fact, outdoor seating may reduce trash, as it creates an inhospitable environment for people to loiter, drink in public, and otherwise cause a nuisance, which is what generally leads to littering.

    Additionally, while locating tables right on the curb might be an unwelcoming environment, outdoor seating behind the sidewalk area doesn’t need to be “sheltered” from traffic by a fence, and, in fact, a large fence defeats the purpose of “sidewalk cafes,” that is to activate the street with multiple uses.

    As far as allowing protests, I reflect on my graduate studies in political science. Naysayers generally are more focused and better organized than the large group that changes would benefit. Would I be happy with an unruly club with a large patio area that wants to blast a live DJ until 2 AM opening up, even though I live far enough away from RIA that I won’t hear it? Of course not. But people oppose EVERYTHING around here. Just look what happened to Menomale. They were prohibited from serving alcohol between 2 and 5 PM on school days because an elementary school is, like, 2 blocks away. Really? They don’t have an outdoor seating area, and I find it hard to believe that if an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL student wanted to get their hands on alcohol, they’d try to talk a CRAFT BEER RESTAURANT into serving them. They certainly aren’t going to be trying to scam $10, 8 ounce beers. So why can’t adults drink INDOORS at times when children will be passing by? Clutch those pearls a little tighter, why don’t you.

    When I lived in places with bars and restaurants near my home, I certainly patronized them frequently. I have been to Menomale several times now…it’s the best thing to happen to this neighborhood in a long time. Open ’em up, I’ll be the first in line to try it out.

    We all need to keep in mind, given this, that when something POSITIVE for the neighborhood is proposed, we need to get to meetings and voice our support. The naysayers will be there…will you?

  3. Thanks for your comment, Ms. D.

    I am in the process of trying to put together a business plan for a brew pub with light food on RI Ave, but stories like this and the fact that the community imposed those restrictions on Menomale give me some pause. I have no illusions about making much money if I get this venture going, but I can’t afford to loose much either.

  4. Flip-it uses plastic and paper. So, trash is produced if the plate, cups, and napkins fly away. I thought Menomale is supposed to be having outdoor seating. When will that happen? Optimism on 12th Street created an outdoor seating space but never completed it. AFAIK, Optimism has a voluntary agreement with the residents of Kearney Street.

    1. Flip It is a hybrid dine in/carry out, which would not be the case with a normal sit-down restaurant with outdoor seating. I was unaware that Menomale was to have outdoor seating. They’ve got the space for it, and the extra seating is much-needed, but I have not heard of any plans/timelines for it. Even then, no OUTDOOR alcohol service in after-school hours would make more sense than no alcohol service at all. I mean, the liquor stores in the area are open in “after school hours,” and they’re much more of a “bad influence” on children than a nice restaurant where you’d have to take out a second mortgage to get blotto.

  5. I think with the occasional power-washing of said business’s immediate outdoor space, coupled with some large planters, one could create a feeling of separation and cleanliness. As long as they are using real utensils, I don’t see how that will create more trash.

    I would encourage Bill not to give up.There are many, many would-be patrons out there (including me!).

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