ANC6B Votes Liquor License for the Hill Center – Chipotle Special Exception Request Postponed until July

ANC6B Votes Liquor License for the Hill Center

Chipotle Special Exception Request Postponed until July

by Larry Janezich

The Hill Center

ANC 6B voted 8-0 to grant a liquor license to the Hill Center Tuesday night.  A new compromise limiting sale of alcohol in the summer garden was announced.  The new language would limit the sale of alcohol in the summer garden from 7:00am – 9:00pm Sunday through Thursday, and 7:00am – 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday.  Further, it would limit entertainment in the garden from 7:00am – 8:00pm Sunday through Thursday, and 7:00am – 9:00pm on Friday and Saturday.

Before the final vote came, the Commission agreed to amendments to the voluntary operating agreement by Commissioner Oldenburg reducing inside hours for entertainment and sale of alcohol to 1:00am on Sunday – Thursday, and 2:00am on Friday and Saturday.  Earlier, Hill Center representatives said they did not anticipate holding events until 3:00am (allowable under standard regulations), and that most events would end at midnight. Another Oldenburg amendment struck language in the voluntary agreement directing noise from outdoor events lasting past 10:00pm to be directed to the north. 

In addition, the Hill Center agreed to reduce the number of outside summer garden patrons to 300 for night time events and to limit amplification of sound outdoors to no later than 8:00pm Sunday – Thursday and 9:00pm Friday and Saturday. 

Despite assurances from Hill Center representatives – former city councilmember Sharon Ambrose and Nicky Cymrot, President of the Old Naval Hospital Foundation – that the Hill Center would not do anything to negatively impact thee community and that events would be overseen by Hill Center staff, twelve community members rose to voice requests for cutting back the hours, limiting noise, demand identification of locations where valet parking would occur, and request the Hill Center to provide off premise pedestrian control.    

The Commissioner Carol Green, stating that there is no one who doesn’t want the Hill Center to succeed, and expressing confidence that the Center will listen to neighbors and adjust operations to address concerns, moved approval of the liquor license request.  Norm Metzger seconded the motion. 

Commissioner Ivan Frishberg tried to wring a last minute concession from Ambrose and Cymrot to agree to a formal review and to request reopening the voluntary agreement if the concerns of the neighbors justified it, but the Ambrose and Cymrot adamantly refused.

The motion was agreed to 8 – 0.

Those voting for the motion were Chair Glick and Commissioners Garrison, Frishberg, Oldenburg, Metzger, Green, Flahaven, and Pate.

Commissioners Campbell and Critchfield were absent. 

Those audience members supporting more restrictions on the Center greeted the vote’s announcement with a loud chorus of boos.   

 Chipotle

In other action, ANC6B postponed consideration and a final vote on Chipotle’s request for a special exception to permit them to open a restaurant and carryout on Barracks Row. 

Chipotle fielded a large contingent of supporters, including Architect Jason Weulker; Chipotle real estate manager, Matt French; Chipotle DC operations manager, Ted Ferguson; Streetsense landlord, Guy Silverman. Barracks Row Main Street Executive Director Martin Smith was also present to lend support.

Raising concerns about the impact of the proposed restaurant were some 7th Street neighbors who raised concerns regarding noise and rodents.  Chipotle strove to allay those concerns, pledging to be a good neighbor and acceding to several requests in an effort to head off problems.  More difficult to address was the concern that approving Chipotle would open the “flood gate” to other fast food outlets. 

The crucial question pushed by Commissioner Dave Garrison, was why do they deserve a special exception which would go against zoning regulations prohibiting fast food restaurants in the commercial corridor?  Chipotle’s argument was that they should not be considered a fast food restaurant because they are a new breed of restaurant – “fast- casual” – which “serves a different customer.” 

Pressing the issue, Garrison, said the argument amounted to “we’re good guys” – and went on to say that wasn’t a sufficient argument to justify an exception. 

Time was not Chipotle’s friend tonight, as the clocked ticked toward the mandatory 10:00pm adjournment deadline for the meeting. 

Commissioner Brian Pate moved to approve the special exception, which failed for a lack of a second. 

Frishberg moved to postpone further consideration until the July12 meeting. Green seconded the motion and the motion was agreed to 7 – 1. 

Those voting for the motion to postpone were Chair Glick, Commissioners Garrison, Frishberg, Oldenberg, Metzger, Green, Flahaven. 

Commissioner Pate voted against the motion. 

Commissioners Campbell and Critchfield were absent.

31 Comments

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31 responses to “ANC6B Votes Liquor License for the Hill Center – Chipotle Special Exception Request Postponed until July

  1. SBA

    How did DC-3 and the other restaurants there get a special exception? Do the 7th Street neighbors really think Chipotle will cause more rodents than Popeye’s or the kind of dirty carryout that’s in that space now? This is so incredibly frustrating. Is the ANC being snobs about chains? I so wish I could have gone to that meeting. These people are ridiculous.

  2. mike

    The ANC demonstrated that it won’t oppose anything that comes its way. Did the Hill Center’s VA really change that much to convince the 4 no votes from last week to change to yes? Chipotle is proving itself to be woefully incompetent in negotiating ANC processes — a bad sign for community-biz relations — yet the ANC keeps giving it second chances. They won’t vote no; they just keep postponing the votes. I think there are some principled people on the ANC who really care about the community, but they forbear to vote their conscience.

    Re: Chipotle — the choice is not between Chipotle or the “dirty carry out.” That’s a false binary that just holds the community hostage to whatever entity wants to descend on Barracks Row. There is a third (and fourth and fifth etc.) way. We have a chance to shape the business community.

    • Why should a negotiation be required to open a Chipotle?

      And yes, framing it as a choice between a dirty carry out and a Chipotle is precisely correct, because that’s what a misguided regulation such as this zoning overlay does.

      Zoning is a blunt tool, and it is most effective at shaping the broad use of a space. Zoning can tell you if this building’s first floor should be used for retail (of any kind) or housing. It is far less effective when you try to use it to regulate the exact kind of business that is allowed to open in a space. All you have to do is try to find some legally defensible definition of ‘fast food’ or ‘chain retail’ and see what kinds of hoops you have to jump through so that things you might oppose (a carry out) are not allowed, while things you might support (say, a Chipotle) are.

      Yes, we should help shape the Barracks Row business community – we should shape it via the market and our spending dollars, and by voting with our feet.

      The regulations should be simple, but they are not. The process should be clear, but it is not. Not everything should be a negotiation. Imagine if this was a small, independent retailer – they’ve just wasted 3 months of rent. That kind of stuff is sink or swim for many businesses.

    • Mike, a couple of points about your post. I think you may be confusing our votes on Chipotle and the Hill Old Naval Hospital. The committee did not take a position on the license for ONH last week. Tuesday’s vote was the first one. There was a more divided vote in committee on Chipotle, but I think the difference was in whether some commissioners thought we should “oppose” versus “not support”. I am fairly confident that no one thought the Chipotle folks were ready for approval at that point.

      That said, the delay is to allow Chipotle to address a few specific points with us and the neighbors so that this can get to a place where we it can be supported.

  3. Eric

    A postponement isn’t a “No.” It sounds as though they ran out of time before hearing everyone’s concerns. I think the ANC should hear everyone’s concerns before voting. Nothing is more frustrating as a citizen than thinking your voice isn’t being heard. I think the ANC did the right thing here. I still hope they ultimately approve Chipotle.

    Alex B – I’m all for the free market, but you do need some oversight and control. I’m as critical as the next guy regarding our ANC’s previous attempts to artificially drive which businesses can open on 8th Street, but in this case I think they are being prudent.

    • Regarding oversight – oversight is great in the abstract, but what specific issues are in need of oversight here? Are those issues to be overseen clearly identified and defined? Is there a regulatory framework in place to handle them already? Is the ANC the right body to do so – what about those who administer health codes or liquor licenses or building codes?

      Regarding ‘control’ – I’m not sure I can agree. Why should an ANC have any control over whether Chipotle wants to open or not? Instead, the city should set clear, simple rules, and then businesses can open/close in accordance with those rules, and operate in accordance with those rules. I can’t agree that there should be ad hoc control at every step of the way.

      More fundamentally, that kind of ‘control’ carries a real cost. The cost is often hidden, factored into delay and time lost. DC is already a high-cost area, and adding more costs on top of that doesn’t help get us new and diverse retail offerings.

  4. anon

    I for one found the compromise on the Hill Center to be reasonably balanced between the interests of both the community and Hill Center (without compromising its business plan). I was one of the many skeptical voices of the previous terms of agreement (385 capacity, late outdoor operating hours), but find this agreement far more acceptable.

    I am curious about the valet parking as well. Leasing space on the Hine lot makes the most sense, but that will eventually not be an option. RFK seems too far away. Does DCPS lease any surface parking space for private commercial entities well outside of school/school activity hours?

  5. Happy to add a few more facts to the discussion on Chipoltle.

    1) The building has only been owned by the current owner for two months according to the testimony last night.
    2) Before we postponed, we asked when there currently scheduled BZA hearing was and learned it is mid July, so our delay in finalizing this
    for the ANC has no impact on their ultimate process with the City or the timeline for the restaurant.
    3) Prior to the meeting last night, the Chipoltle folks had still not talked directly to neighbors, and through the course of the meeting it was apparent that there were some reasonable requests that we could pursue to make everyone reasonably satisfied. We were running out of time and it seemed more constructive to allow a direct conversation between the parties before we forced a decision.
    4) Despite what Brian Pate says, I like burritos, have eaten and even made many burritos, and have never been a part of any burrito hating party.

    Ivan

    • That’s fine – my argument wasn’t so much about the application of the process in this specific case, but about the serious shortcomings of the process and the regulations in general.

      I don’t think Chipotle should have to go before the BZA at all.

      And I appreciate that you were running out of time in this particular meeting – there’s nothing worse than a meeting that drags on forever – but I again question the need for a business wanting to locate within a business area being forced to get approval from neighbors. I can see why people like that sort of thing, but I do not see why that needs to be a requirement.

      As I’ve argued before, not everything should be a negotiation.

  6. Kathy

    First and foremost…Chipotle is not Fast Food. It is Fast Casual. Equating it to Mcdonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Roy Rogers, etc is not accurate . Price points are higher, there is no dollar menu, it is healthier, the interior is nicer, and when was the last time you saw someone walking down the street eating a Chipotle Burrito, let alone one of their Burrito Bowls. Impossible. Second, I have worked and lived in a building where Chipotle was located on ground floor, and us residents could not have asked for a better neighbor. And last, they were they most civic minded businesses in my community given their level of support to our local organizations. And last, I respectfully request the ANC to lend it’s support as it is a family friendly establishment that I feel good bring my children to…and it’s healthy. Thank you

    • anon

      Define “healthier”, when their offerings contain more than half the calories an adult male should consume in a day and contain more sodium than should be consumed in one and a half days. I agree that their sourcing is superior to “fast food” chains and you can go healthier with the bowl sans tortilla option, but Chipotle is hardly a healthy food option.

      • Stan Olshefski

        Portion control man. Portion control.

        If you control your portion, Chipotle is healthier than virtually any fast food option.

        But, the healthfulness of the restaurant shouldn’t be a consideration as to whether it can open in a given retail space.

        All this foot dragging is NIMBYism at its worst.

      • anon

        How is it NIMBYism to challenge a false claim? I’m utterly agnostic on the presense of Chipotle or virtually any other business on 8th St. (maybe aside from strip joints or a rending plant). Chipotle’s products contain obscene amounts of fat (saturated and non), calories (even with portion control), and particularly inescapably high levels of SODIUM. They offer nothing containing whole grain foods. You can eat lesser amounts and consider it “healthy,” or you could just eat food that is just inherently healthier… but that’s really personal preference.

        If I’m on the road, I’ll take it over other fast food, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat this. There are virtually no healthy eating options on the Hill (or elsewhere really) The real NIMBYism is feeling like you’re entitled to a say in the matter either way.

      • Eric

        two points:

        – I’m sure Stan is calling it NIMBY b/c some (not all) on our ANC have shown objection to any new restaurant (healthy or not) on 8th based on nothing more than the fact that it’s a place that serves food and wants to locate on 8th street. Look at the recent (seemingly failed) attempt to ban any new liquor licenses

        – “The real NIMBYism is feeling like you’re entitled to a say in the matter either way” … whether you agree with Stan or not he certainly has a right to speak up on this issue or any other. I can’t fathom how simply voicing an opinion is NIMBYism … especially when it sounds like Stan is in favor of Chipotle. He’s exercising IMBYPism (In My Back Yard Please.)

      • anon

        Again — any business that meets zoning laws and wants to operate is free to do so (although I’d argue the ANC is less concerned for the neighbors than the competition for existing businesses). The proponents who feel entitled to determine what does or does not open are sticking their noses in business which they really don’t have a stake. Whether that’s a preference for or against Chipotle are two sides of the same coin.

        The bottom line is I’m only concerned with controllable externalities. If I live next door to the local general store which sells thousands of jars of widgets a day, I don’t want them taking their emtpies to the dumpster for recycling at 2am. I”m comfortable that position does not qualify me as a NIMBY.

      • Grant

        Eric (below). You should check the ANCs voting record. They only voted against a liquor license once and then withdrew the protest. Your perception that they are anti-business is from their “weighing of community concerns” game, which is all a charade. Again, look at the voting record.

      • Eric

        Grant – I never said that the ANC denied every liquor license that came before them, but can you deny that there was an attempt to create a moratorium on all liquor licenses? That attempt is now dead I’m told, thanks in part to some of the new blood on the ANC

        I hope to see Chipotle on 8th street. In fact I’ve been ranting for years that it’s amazing one doesn’t exist on the south side of the Hill for years. I am glad that the ANC is doing their due diligence with the application and not simply rubber stamping them through. My only concern is that they may be under more scrutiny simply b/c their are a national chain. I think everyone should get the same attention, but not unnecessary road blocks.

      • Grant

        True, they was a evanescent interest in a moratorium, which was quashed by the efforts not of “new blood,” but of Norm Metzger. This was a blip on the radar, rather than an expression of sustained policy, so it’s a mischaracterization to say the ANC is anti-business. They are quite pro-business — I’m told that Neil Glick is an investor in the Matchbox enterprises. Conflict of interest anyone?

  7. Kathleen

    To my mind, what the ANC did last night with the Old Navy Hospital was not so much to vote in support of its liquor license as it was to vote in favor of dealing with any problems resulting from the Center’s operations later on and reactively. I think that if the development team was not so very well-connected, things would have been different. The proposed business plan, for instance, would have received closer inspection and a more critical review.

  8. G.

    If by “well-connected,” you mean that they are longtime and conscientious members of the community who are known to the ANC, then you’re probably right. They presumably have more trust and credibility than a nightclub entrepreneur would have. That may have been your point — I’m not sure.

    I’m glad that the ANC so resoundingly put the neighborhood’s greater good over the preferences of a small minority. If Eastern Market can host large events without everything going to pot, so can the Hill Center. Since there’s a good relationship between the Center and the ANC, it’s appropriate to see how it works and adjust the deal later. This is how a community is supposed to function.

  9. Kathleen

    That wasn’t my point, and I’m happy to clarify. By well-connected I mean those with close ties to the political establishment or the political establishment itself–the kind of clout that can, for example, successfully put down plans to see the Old Navy Hospital turn into the Mayor’s residence (plans that many of us supported). I did not allude to it but am also happy to clarify that it is my impression some of these representatives–and I cite Sharon Ambrose by name here–kind of expect to have their way without answering to reasonable concerns and have thus far behaved in ways that, in my opinion, neighbors are correct in construing as high-handed. We are all neighbors, and we all deserve accountability, including, for instance, leaving a name when attempting to speak on behalf of the community. Personally I speak for only myself, but I think you know what I mean when I say that, don’t you “G”?

  10. Kathy

    Anon, I do appreciate your comment. However, while Chipotle offers cheese and guacamole so peolple have an option, I elect to pass on those add ons and my dinner weighs in at just under 500 caleries…and my kid’s dinner is just under 200. And we leave quite full. I cut and pasted the Chipotle nutrition link. Check it out as I think you will come to the same conclusion. http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/menu/nutritional_information/nutritional_information.aspx

    • anon

      Don’t get me wrong — you’re speaking to a fan 😉 I’m familiar with their nutritional info.

      Actually, the sodium is the worst culprit in my mind. You can exercise portion control, and sharing is a good and cost effective option, but the sodium is outrageous. At 1000 mg/1000 calories of food being ideal and 2300 mg for 2000 calorie diet based on the USDA RDI, a single burrito can easily exceed that number. Given the lack of processed food in their products, the numbers are just astonishgly high. I don’t have high blood pressure or anything, but still tend to treat this as a strictly ‘sometimes’ food.

      And why pass on guac? Avocados are probably the single healthiest option on their menu. That’s not good fat — it’s great fat.

  11. TD

    ANC, I am highly supportive and in favor of welcoming Chipotle to our community. They offer a quality product in a family friendly atmosphere at reasonable prices. They are not open late and it is certainly not a “watering hole” for those who are looking to let loose. It would be great to see more small children and families strolling along our beloved Barraks Row, and Chipotle can be an additional catalyst for that as it appeals to all walks of life….including families. I ask that you support bringing Chipotle to our community rather then block them out. I think that would be a disservice.

  12. B Pate

    I am confident that the purportedly anti-burrito forces will not prevail…and that as a positive outcome of this process, we will have a strong rodent control plan in place, with no resulting regulatory delays.

  13. Grant

    I find Pate’s comment about “anti-burrito forces” disturbing. It’s increasingly clear that the ANC comes to the table with decisions in its pocket, then runs the charade of community discussion, often squelched or dismissed, in meetings. Poor.

  14. Max

    Could not agree with Grant more. While there is overwhelming support to bring burritos to 8th St., it does seem that ANC members have their own agenda with “decisions in their pocket”. We can only hope they will serve the will of the people they represent.

  15. Caitrin

    ANC6B…Please represent the interests of the large majority of the residents in your district and lend your support to bring Chipotle to 8th street. That block is a disaster and it looks like we have new owners and a fabulous tenant who can start making it great!

  16. Grant

    When’s Walmart coming to 8th?

  17. David

    If true, it is indeed concerning that an investor in the Matchbox concepts (and maybe additional restaurants) is making decisions on whether to permit restaurants that may be deemed “competition” (i.e. Chipotle) into the area.

    It would now make sense why Mr. Glick would make the comment that “takeout” only accounts for 6% of DC3 business in his “argument” that Chipotle may have too much carry-out. Anyone can stand out front of DC3 and see this is ludicrous. THEY SELL HOT DOGS!! It would also make sense that Mr. Glick stated that people walk around eating Burritos in his “accusation” that trash will be everywhere. Please…when do you see people walking the streets eating Chipotle Burritos?

    I certainly hope this apparent conflict of interest does not influence Neil Glick’s vote. Protectionism does not serve the best interest of the people.

  18. Mike

    David,
    Glick appears to be supporting Chitpotle. As an alleged stakeholder in 8th St. businesses it would seem he has an interest in fostering a positive business environment, even if it produces some competition.