ANC 4D held a special meeting on Thursday, September 3rd in order to clear out some financial business. Basically, they didn’t have a quorum at the end of the August meeting, and were required to vote on expenditures (fiscal year closes at the end of September). Since all ANC expenditures have to be voted on in public, they had to do the meeting.
Since they were meeting… they decided to use the time to talk about the community’s concerns regarding the reinstatement of the liquor license of the Trinidad and Tobago Association (known as “the Club House”) as well as introduce a new affordable senior housing coming to Kennedy Street.
After reviewing the expenditures for the last two quarters, the ANC voted to accept the Treasurer’s report for the 2nd and 3rd quarters (Commissioner Krystal Branton is the treasurer). The end balance is $9,234.43.
Then Commissioner Nancy Roth introduced Mr. Randolph Horton and Matt Engel from Manna, a non-profit development company. Mr. Horton owns the old the property at 608 Kennedy Street NW, which had been the Horton funeral home and is now a car wash. The property is going to be redeveloped into a 4-story, 42-unit affordable housing apartment building for seniors (55+ and over). “We wanted to do something with the property that would help the community,” said Mr. Horton.
Rent will be $500-800 month and the building will offer a community room, fitness room, office and other amenities. Grimm & Parker are the architects. No zoning relief is being requested.
Commissioner Roth said that there is a concern in her SMD about the lack of community-oriented amenities in the area, and asked if there were plans to put retail in the first floor of the building. Mr. Engel said that the plans were still open and that "we have a long way to go” before finalizing. “We want to heavily amenitize the space for seniors, and have made an effort to open up the space to the street. Studies show that seniors like to sit by the door and look at who comes and goes, who walks down the street. So it's open to the street,” he said.
Mr. Engel added that they’re not against retail in the first floor, but the focus is on the seniors, and right now the plan calls for a management office on the first floor. The building will also offer handicap van access and a ramp, with the ground floor ADA accessible and seven units fully handicap accessible.
Commissioner Sheon said “This is excellent, and we could use that model a hundred times over in this city and we're lucky to have you in the community.”
Commissioner Roth asked if the developers were aware of the plans by DC DDOT for infrastructure improvement along Kennedy Street. Mr. Engel said they had heard about it, but not fully aware of the details. He added that they’ll need to work with the city, as they’ll need access to public space for new water, electric lines, etc.
Mr. Engel also mentioned wanting to come back for a letter of support from the ANC. Sounds like that won’t be an issue, considering the feedback from the commissioners.
Then Commissioner Sheon introduced Fred Moosally, ABRA Director, and Sarah Fashbaugh, ABRA’s Community Outreach Officer (Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration). Commissioner Sheon wanted to discuss the recent liquor license reinstatement of the Trinidad and Tobago Association.
Commissioner Sheon’s main concern was the fact that this club has been known to be a poor neighbor, with parties involving hundreds, trash, violence, loitering and noise. In January the club was shut down by MPD Chief Lanier for 96 hours after a fight broke out in the club. 300 people spilled out onto Georgia Avenue after club security used pepper spray on some of the patrons. 20 officers were called to the scene to bring things under control. Neighbors have come out to ANC meetings talking about the problems with this club, and showing how it may not be living up to its tax-exempt status. Commissioner Sheon was upset that the T&T Association had their license restored without MPD or community involvement or notification.
Mr. Moosally and Ms. Fashbaugh ran through the protest process, and gave background on this particular issue.
Mr. Moosally explained that the ABC board has seven members who hear questions and make rulings and that they’re appointed by the mayor. There are five members whose terms are up now, two more in May. Interestingly, there are no Ward 4 members on the Board (apparently, the Mayor has yet to nominate someone). ABRA (and Mr. Moosally) report to the Board.
The two ABRA representatives explained that liquor licenses are valid for up to 3 years, at which time they go back to a protest phase and renewal. Issues like noise, crime, and so on are relevant to the protest process. They said that an ANC is entitled to "great weight" and ABRA has to answer any questions put before it. Besides an ANC, a group of five residents or property owners who abut a business can protest a license.
After the closure in January, the club agreed to remain closed until a recent hearing by the ABC Board (Alcoholic Beverage Control) on July 8th, allowing the club to reopen, pursuant to an Offer in Compromise (OIC) agreement made between the Office of the Attorney General and the club. The Board accepted the OIC with stipulations. The next step is a “show cause” hearing, led by the OAG if they decide to file charges against the club. (The point here, I believe, was to say that ABRA wasn’t involved — it was the Board and the OAG.) The concern then from Sheon was that the Board and the OAG wasn’t taking into account community concerns, past bad behaviors and was allowing a problem-establishment to reopen pending further investigation with little controls.
Mr. Moosally said the OIC is between OAG and licensee, but there's no notice period for the ANC or community for the agreement.
The OAG (as next steps) has to show that the establishment poses an immediate danger to the community (violence, criminal activity, etc.). The result of the hearing could be a fine or the suspension or revocation of the license (and/or other conditions placed on the license).
Mr. Moosally mentioned that the T&T Association was a private club, not a night club, and had only members and their guests, and could hold no public events.
Commissioner Sheon replied that his concern is that there are no checks on the club, “There could be one member and 99 guests. There’s no occupancy listing in the club. No checking of IDs. It sounds like a private agreement with a serial ABRA violator.”
Mr Moosally said the OAG’s charges haven't been fully resolved yet, and that the Board can place additional conditions, and the OAG could place additional conditions. He said he was open to getting ANCs better information.
Referencing the OIC, Commissioner Sheon said, "It's so sloppily written, it's unbelievable. There's no provisions for security after the club closes, allows them to take security training of their choice. This place has about one the worst track record in the city."
There was concern that the club is going back to its old habits. Mr. Moosally said that ABRA’s investigative unit was “fully staffed; we will be out monitoring."
One resident, Lenny, said “I don’t think this club promotes itself correctly. Hundreds show up based on the hype they produce. They line up down the block, trash the neighborhood. Hundreds of liquor bottles.” He said that things seem shady, since Commissioner Sheon wasn’t aware of the OIC, and “he’s on top of things.”
Another resident, Ms Wallace, said she was “Sick and tired of downtown disrespecting our neighborhood. The young folks sit outside, making noise. How do you people let this happen?”
Mr. Moosally reiterated that their investigative work goes to 4am, and they will make sure the T&T Association is not acting as a club, and not engaging promoters and is not making general public advertisements for their events.
There were a few other community concerns raised by residents, but the above captures the details. People are exceedingly unhappy with this establishment, and extremely frustrated with DC government process that allowed the club to reopen.
Commissioner Sheon will continue to get more information, I’m sure.
The next, regular meeting of ANC 4D is September 15th.