Hill Center Neighbors Detail Goals of Liquor License Protest

Hill Center Neighbors Detail Goals of Liquor License Protest

by Larry Janezich

A core group of protesting neighbors met on Friday, June 8, and agreed on which of the operational details governing the rental of space for social events currently listed by Hill Center on its website should be formalized in an enforceable voluntary agreement (VA).  In addition, the group agreed on a number of new restrictions that should be part of a new VA.

The list of items is as follows:

Hill Center policies on Website to be written into a VA

1)  Alcohol service in the Garden will end at 8:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  Inside the building, alcohol sales will end at 11:00 p.m.  The hours for entertainment are the same as those for alcohol service.

2)  All equipment must be delivered after 7:00 a.m. and removed by 12:00 midnight.

3)  All events that expect more than 30 cars must contract with our approved valet parking vendor.  Hosts will encourage their guests to use public transportation and taxis.

In addition:  For events with 100 or more guests, jitney service will be provided between the parking site and the Hill Center in order to reduce the noise that results from patrons waiting for their cars to be brought to them,

4)  Clean up requirements of caterers regarding removal of trash from the site and restoring the building and/or the garden to its pre-event condition.

In addition, there should be a commitment to contract with the BID to insure that the area surrounding the site is cleaned up.

Additional items to be written into a VA

1)  Occupancy for special events would be limited to 250 people (outdoor and indoor combined).

2)  No amplification of sound at garden area events.  Windows will be closed for any indoor event.

3)  Security personnel for events serving alcohol will provide a visual presence on the site and the surrounding street will be monitored by security for at least one hour after closing time for the event.

4)  The Hill Center will facilitate access to personnel on site during events (cell phone numbers, e-mail addresses, pagers or whatever will expedite resolution of problems.

5)  The Hill Center will keep a log of complaints and resolutions of problems that will be accessible to the neighborhood upon request.

6)  The staff and/or board will convene a meeting with Hill Center neighbors 6 months after the VA is signed by both parties and approved by ABRA.  This meeting will provide an opportunity for discussion as to whether the VA has met the expectations of both sides.  Mutually agreeable changes will be made after a free and open discussion.

7)  Any transfer of this alcohol beverage license will be limited to transfer to another 501C3 organization.

8)  The Old Naval Hospital Foundation shall amend the Alcohol Beverage license application to include the changes in this Voluntary Agreement and file this with the Alcohol Beverage Review Board.

Protest group leaders Jill Lawrence and Barbara Eck have released specific items they hope to see included in a new voluntary operational agreement (VA) with Hill Center.  Lawrence has been the point person in organizing neighborhood meetings and gathering signatures on the protest letter and petitions of support.  Erepresentatives.ck has led the efforts in navigating ABRA regulations and liaising with Hill Center.


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16 responses to “Hill Center Neighbors Detail Goals of Liquor License Protest

  1. Is it legal for private security personnel to monitor activity on public streets? I would think their activites would be limited to the Hill Center property. Or is the plan to have on-duty DC police monitor the streets? Wouldn’t that conflict with their other assignments?

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  3. Whoa_now

    jesus, this is as bad as an HOA. People this is a city-you won’t like everything about it. You are crippling what could be a great addition to the neighborhood. I agree with some things you have written, but for the most part its what people should do to be a good neighbor. A couple of points.
    1) You can not expect this non-profit to thrive if you make it so that only canasta is played there.
    2) Noise ordinance apply. If they are breaking them, call the cops. You do not need to insert language into a VA that is very restricting
    3) Security – added cost that will only make the cost to rent out the space that much more expensive…which limits who will actually rent out the space.
    4) Parking – You live in a city. Parking will always be a problem. Reagular parking hours and permits should apply-your desire to have them to contract out a parking lot for more than anything with 30 cars is again an added cost.

    Look, I understand the frustration with new neighborhood business..but by trying to make them perfect you are actually limiting what they can do and it’s working against your best interest… This group is actually creating the exact opposite of what the whole neighborhood wants. I do not want a place that does only weddings/gigantic events because that is all that can afford it. Basically closed on the weekdays and large events on the weekends. If that’s what this group wants, I will say they are very shortsighted and basically wrong. I want art exhibit on Monday, I want children plays on Sunday morning, I want comedy shows on Friday night, I want to listen to a speaker tell me about Machu Pichu on Tuesday night, I want bridge club on Wednesday night, I want to watch Casablanca on Thursday night…and yes I want the wedding on Saturday night to subsidize everything else.

  4. GiantSquid

    I agree the security requirement for the surrounding area is pretty silly. I work at a theatre in Penn Quarter that does all kinds of rentals, even with alcohol, and we are never required to supply security. We do have limits on hours of loading in and out as well as how late the event can go. I live just around the corner from the Center and my only real concern is parking. I know that we live in a city and parking is often hard to come by and that’s the nature of the beast. However, if there’s a wedding on a Friday night in the summer and the Marine Corps is having their parade along with the usual 8th street crowds, it will be near impossible to get a spot within a block or two of our house. Maybe one possible solution is to turn 10th and E streets into Zone 6 parking only?

  5. anon

    PQ is an entirely different urban environment than the area around the Naval Hospital, but I agree with your point on security to some extent. However, the parking requirements seem like the least of it. There are no guarantees of ready street parking anywhere. Even Zone 6 will be an issue if it allows Zone 6 residents a ready alternative to the 8th St. crunch. The valet parking requirement needs to be strictly enforced and event organizers need to discourage street parking in such instances.

    • Whoa_now

      I’ll agree that the event organizers need to strongly discourage street parking. Valet seems expensive and would likely result in added cost to the organizer, which limits the types of events. Parking is a city wide problem and the council needs to take action. Trying to restrict parking in Voluntary Agreements with business is IMO not the way to go about it.

  6. It’s a dense city – there shouldn’t be any expectation of cheap and plentiful on-street parking whatsoever. RPP stickers are woefully underpriced considering the demand for the scarce resource of on-street curb space.

    I think Whoa_now hits on some key points – each of these requirements imposes costs on the organization. Some are explicit costs, some are hidden costs, but they all carry an impact one way or another – and each additional cost imposed makes it more and more likely that renting out the facility for weddings and other revenue-generating uses is the only viable option.

  7. oboe

    “jesus, this is as bad as an HOA. People this is a city-you won’t like everything about it. You are crippling what could be a great addition to the neighborhood. ”

    Agree 100% with this. NIMBYs really are crippling what could be a fantastic resource. Does anyone know if there’s an organized pro-Hill Center group I can join?

  8. anon

    The “this is a city” arguement is so tired and trite. Can anyone who supports Hill Center think of a single “pro” argument rather than the hackneyed and ubiquitous “NIMBY” charge? Did Hill Center address noise abatement? Were they honest about the types and scale of events they hoped to attract and the amenities offered (I can think of a few high end event spots in Georgetown that don’t allow late night outdoor events)? I wouldn’t expect burdensome quality of life nuisances here anymore than I’d want a new wasteful highway built adjacent to my suburban backyard (see Intercounty Connector). Yes, I know that would literally be not in my backyard, but I can oppose such a project whether I live there or not (and yes — both IC and Hill Center are relying on public dollars). ABRA laws exist for these types of protections, and these regulations are common through the district (even in ‘evil’ Adams Morgan).

    Has anyone asked why the Hill Center has such a weak business plan that they want us to believe it can’t succeed without getting the kind of free pass on a liquor license that even many of the 8th St. businesses struggle to attain (granted scaled back, but not far enough for many)? I know most applicants ask for the moon on hours assuming they’ll negotiate downward, but Hill Center could have had this discussion with its neighbors much earlier in the process.

    Most of the Hill community supported Hill Center because they saw it as a net benefit to the community — they didn’t see it as a community benefit neutralized by the cost of compromised quality of life. I’m reminded of my only hesitation in voting for Tommy Wells a few years back — he had Sharon Ambrose’s endorsement.

  9. Whoa_now

    The “its a city argument is so tired and trite” and “Nimby” charge is often used because you can’t honestly come up with anything other than it will lesson *MY* quality of life on issues like Noise/Parking/Property Value-I offered points, you went directly for my city argument. So I’ll make the city argument.
    1)Parking in a city is scarce, you don’t own the spot, its not yours. Ward 6 permits and time limits are required. You want something different talk to Wells. The Hill Center is walking distance from a Metro. People on both ends will learn to use the Metro. You will learn to not move your car on Saturdays. I agree that it sucks, but that is a price many people pay to live in the city.
    2)Noise happens in citys…close to commercial strips the louder it gets. You buy close to commercial strips, expect it. Call the police on anything over the legal limit. The hill is not going to get quieter. 8th street restaurants and Hines will increase density and noise and parking. Get used to it.
    3)Event centers often times rely on liquor license to make a profit. You take that away and small events don’t happen because the Center will have to charge more to pay for operation costs. You are in essence fighting against your best interest. Or maybe you want it to only be used on the weekends by weddings and expensive events.
    31/2) Maybe new business aren’t “honest” initally (I don’t know how they weren’t “honest”, if some one here knows why-please post and I’ll take that information going forward) beacuse they have to deal with groups who fight tooth and nail over everything under the sun. Less than 50 people, no noise after 930, valet parking, etc.
    4)They’re are plenty of laws on the books in DC to help neighbors be neighborly. I agree that these should be enforced, because many times they aren’t. We as neighbors have a responsibility to call out our neighbors that are breaking the law.
    5)You may have a point with their business plan, I admit that I haven’t seen it, and have only read about it on blogs. I would like to see their official business plan.
    6) Property Value-I refuse to believe that the Hill Center and/or new restaurants are lessoning my property value or for that matter anyone’s on the Hill. But again, nobody said your property value would continue to go up.

    Cities, neigborhoods, towns are all dynamic places and change happens, sometimes for the good and sometime for the bad. I at this time can’t say that the Hill center (one that a year ago was empty and a blight) will be a net negative for our community.

  10. anon

    I live close to said commercial corridor (not a signatoree on the protest) and I’m well versed in the noise patterns. The truth of the matter is that it’s really not so noisy on areas adjacent to Penn Ave, which despite its 6 lanes (I don’t know why the protesters count metered parking/bus stops as a lane). Traffic noise peaks during rush hour (am & pm)and by 9 or 10 at night it’s reasonably quiet.

    The protesters are rightfully raising isssues that go beyond the routine or expected. For example, I may be willing to live near a busy traffic corridor, but not as close to a commercially zoned area (established or not). Hill Center adjoins the E St. SE portion which is entirely residential (by adjoin, I mean 60 ft. across a narrow residential street). None of these people signed up for living across the street from a commercial entity, which is what the Hill Center business plan seems to entail. The venture was sold to them as a community center — anything beyond that should involve far more careful planning and better communication with potentially impacted parties. Most of these people felt like the Hill Center pulled a fast one by not divulging details of their events planning or the potential impact.

    Noise complaints are a low priority for MPD (if addressed at all). The only leverage the neighbors have is through their liquor license, which is instrinsically tied to the impact of late night activity Hill Center envisions hosting.

    Part of good being a good urban citizen is recognizing that you live in close proximity to others, being respectful of the confines inherent in densely populated areas, and learning to play nice with your neighbors. Every impacted neighor has at least one adjoining wall with someone else. It shapes how you live in the city. Hill Center seems to think they should be the exception.

  11. Pope Barrow

    Almost everything that the protestors are asking for in the liquor license is identical to, or slightly tighter than, what that the Hill Center is currently stating on its website that it plans to do. The license protest is the only way for those directly affected in the neighborhood to make legally sure that there is no backsliding from what the Hill Center now publicly states that it will do to protect the neighborhood, with a few additions (which are most likely negotiable). So why bother? Because the initial license proposed by the Hill Center was a real shocker (closing at 3AM, much larger numbers of guests, etc.). It surprised the neighborhood and ignited fear among those who have already been struggling to adjust to the explosive growth of late night bars on Barracks Row. All of the protesters that I have talked to want the Hill Center to suceed and expect it to be an asset to the community. There is nothing crippling to the business plan that any of the protestors want. They do want a little accountability.

  12. hmmmm

    I would like to associate myself with Whoa Now’s comments. While the Hine project is turning into an abomination, we have folks going after a sorely needed non-profit community space.

    Priorities people.

  13. Whoa_now

    Pope Borrow, anon, et al: I’d like to offer an apology for the haste of my previous comments. After reviewing their website they have agreed to a number of things already that I suggested would cripple their ability to run a “profitable” non profit. It sounds to me they are doing everything in their power to be neighborly(some things that probably will be a hinderance to the non-profit, IMO) I think the additions at top are sort of nitpicking though. Security? force meetings? access? complaint logs? Do any of the other business around provide this kind of relationships? It sounds that this group is afraid of any losing leverage.

  14. ThomThom

    WhoaNow and others seem to misunderstand what a C class liquor license is in comparison to a Restaurant or Tavern class liquor license. Imagine Velvet Nation or Tracks one block from your house. There’s a reason why those discotheques were in warehouse districts. Also, some people are underestimating how easily that C class license can transfer to a entity not as predisposed to be a good neighbor as Hill Center. The experiences with Heart & Soul (violence) and with 4th & Goal (street trash and 2am noise) demontrate that. There is a history of problematic liquor related businesses in the 9th Street to 13th Street stretch of Penn Ave that happens to be way more residential than other stretches. Residents are not needlessly NIMBY. They are NIMBY by experience.

  15. jbkim

    AMEN thom thom. thank u.