Neighbors Organize Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Application for a Liquor License – Claim ANC6B’s Deal Falls Short

Neighbors Organize Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Application for a Liquor License – Claim ANC6B’s Deal Falls Short

by Larry Janezich

A dozen neighbors of the Hill Center who will be most adversely affected by events held at the Hill Center  – weddings, receptions, etc., – met Saturday afternoon to begin organizing a formal protest before the Alcohol Beverage Review Administration when it meets July 18 to consider granting the Center’s application for a liquor license.  The Hill Center’s annual operating budget is $750,000, much of which will be raised by renting out space for events.  The Hill Center has not released details of any business plan they have and refuses to estimate how many events they will hold annually to meet their financing goal.  The protest could delay what would otherwise be smooth sailing for approval of the license.  ANC6b unanimously approved the license application last Tuesday after entering into a voluntary agreement with the Center that neighbors consider inadequate. 

Some of the items the group will push for in a new voluntary agreement for the Center include reducing the hours they can serve alcohol, agree to no amplification of sound outside, limit further the occupancy for events, provide increased security inside and outside the grounds, restrict loading and unloading to Pennsylvania Avenue, and reduce the number of vehicles that automatically triggers the valet service.  Petitions are being circulated in support of the protest. 

One of the key organizers of the group is Barbara Eck, long active in the community.  In addition to being a longtime supporter of the Hill Center, Eck serves as Treasurer of Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, a member of the Board of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, a member of Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Eastern Washington, and supporter of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project.


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21 responses to “Neighbors Organize Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Application for a Liquor License – Claim ANC6B’s Deal Falls Short

  1. Christine McCoy

    I understand that the meeting about this got very heated. To be honest I was surprised by the need for a liquor license and I do have conerns about them moving forward. I imagine that my neighbors assumed, like myself, that the Hill Center was to focus on community education and culture – not events and wedding receptions. And while I understand that these would be nice to have at such a place, who knew that’s where they were headed with their business plan?? It would have been nice to hear this early on rather than to have it sprung on us unexpectedly. Pretty crappy way to go about things, particularly when we have tried so hard to be open and honest about more recent community developments.

    Christine McCoy

  2. J

    Why are you “surprised by the need for a liquor license” for a place that wants to host events? Trying to remember the last time I attended one of a zillion DC receptions, that was just tea and sodiepop.

  3. C

    Based on the kinds of restrictions EMMCA is asking for, it seems they think this is going to be a night club. Is ‘additional security’ necessary for weddings and receptions? Or am I just going to the wrong receptions?
    Perhaps it would be better to leave it as a decrepit, run-down eyesore of a building. Otherwise there might be music and *god forbid* dancing. We all know what that leads to.

  4. EMMCA has not taken any position on the Hill Center’s application for a liquor license.

    Larry Janezich

  5. Ian Coleman

    Is there some sort of organization that’s acting as a counter-protest. If so, I’d like information on how to join. Frankly, I’m tired of “groups” that consist of maybe a dozen or so NIMBYs who want to ensure *my* neighborhood has all the life and charm of a exurban Des Moines cul-de-sac.

  6. LS

    Have you looked at the rates they are charging for using rooms, plus the 50% non refundable deposit!!!! I can’t picture any group wanting to pay these prices! It seems that the amount charged for rooms is making it specifically aimed at the Wedding, Reception types. Any classes held by folks will need to charge $50 to $100 per person just to break even.

  7. Dan

    Allow me to translate the phrase “most adversely affected by events at the Hill center” – which means, I park on the street and I’m afraid an event go-er will take my space and I will raise holy hell about it, even if it means screwing up a deal that is turning a disgraceful eyesore into a community asset. I sincerely hope these crabby cranks lose their ongoing battle against change and progress. There are many more than a dozen people in the Eastern Market area who are all for the license, so let’s make sure we yell as loudly as the NIMBYs.

    • anon

      I think by “most adversely affected by events” they mean they live directly across E St. from the facility.

      I don’t get the dichotomy between eyesore and nuissance. There’s plenty of middle ground if HC wants to be a good neighbor and a true community partner.

  8. anon

    I don’t get why the HC proponent think DC noise laws somehow don’t apply to this facility. Amplified music outdoors is an absolute nuisance when in close proximity to other people’s homes, in this case directly across the narrow E St. If groups wish to have this option, I see no problem with having it indoors with proper sound insulation. The proximity to residences is absolutely a legitimate concern, even if I do not fully agree with all of the terms requested by the protesters

  9. G!

    This is only about whether the center can sell the booze at events. The events are permitted to happen, either way. If renters need to get single-event permits and BYOB, then the center is cut out of making money from the booze. This is how Eastern Market events run — the renter has to get the permits.

    Since the events are permitted to happen either way (and need to for the center to stay open), I really don’t see an advantage to anyone in denying the license. Better to let the center make money on booze that will be sold either way (and decrease necessary subsidies). Moreover, the license will be valuable to the center, so it presumably will be willing to make voluntary concessions on noise, for example, beyond those that it would be required to under the noise ordinances. (I gather that the residents are looking for something beyond mere compliance with the noise laws.) If you take away the license, the residents have much less leverage over general operating issues.

    By the way, I think the assumption that the center will have “adverse” effects does suggest that you’re taking a position.

    • anon

      While the DCMR has specific regs on noise in relation to ABRA licenses, it also places limits on nuissance noise, which includes amplified sound. The noise issue can relate to the ABRA process, but it’s not exclusive from the DCMR on noise.

    • Whoa_now

      I’d like to add something to this. Without a liquor license the ONH will not be able to have the stuff that the people who are crying over the liquor licence want. No art shows, no dancing classes, no peruvian exhibits, etc because the only folks that will be able to afford the rental cost is weddings and parties. They are essentially hurting themselves. The license will allow the ONH to make money on the sale of alcohol, food and the rental fees, not just the rental fees, which means they can lower the rental fees-which will allow for a more diverse use. If you remove their liquor license, they will have no choice but to rent to the highest payers…guess who: Parties.

      • Grant

        Why is it imperative that liquor be the source of income for the HC? Sharon Ambrose said at the meeting that if they don’t have parties that sell liquor they won’t be able to hold community events. What kind of business planning is that? The HC people have created a false trade off — if you don’t let us sell liquor, the community benefits of the HC will fail.

      • Those ‘community benefits’ cost money and raise little to no revenue.

        Liquor sales and event hosting raises lots of revenue.

        It’s a pretty simple equation, really.

      • Grant

        But it’s not the only equation.

  10. Grant

    The arrogance and the smoke and mirrors approach of the HC representatives should raise eyebrows. Kids aren’t going to be making pottery here; it’s a place where DC’s well-heeled can party, infusing the HC peeps with great self esteem.

  11. Grant

    PS – there’s good chance that YOU won’t be invited to the party.

  12. G!

    What are the downsides to liquor, I guess is the question. No one seems to articulate that. Event spaces all over the city, including in this neighborhood, serve alcohol all the time. In what cases are there community friction? I have to again invoke the best example, Eastern Market, which holds events all the time, and the community soldiers on.

    I just no know of no empirical evidence, or even a decent analogy, to suggest that an alcohol license at this space would have a detrimental effect in terms of noise or parking. If I’m wrong about that, I’d love someone to explain.

  13. Kathleen

    Hi G!
    I’m happy to explain. Like every other city and town in America, liquor licenses in DC are the vehicle through which the city negotiates and regulates noise and parking issues for commercial establishments. To the best of my understanding, neighbors are planning to protest the liquor license not because they are teetotalers but because they want their preferences regarding noise and parking written into the voluntary agreement.

  14. G!

    @Kathleen. Thanks. I was under the perhaps misguided impression that the neighbors were protesting the license in total, rather than the terms of the license. Using the license to control parking and noise makes sense — goes to my earlier point was that having a license with restrictions is presumably better for the neighbors than no license at all, since they’d then lose that leverage.

  15. SBA

    I’m with Ian…