Hill Center and Neighbors to Begin Mediation on Voluntary Agreement for Alcohol License
by Barbara Riehle
This morning, about twenty neighbors of the soon-to-open Hill Center met at the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA) on 14th and U Streets, NW, to begin the formal protest and mediation process triggered by the Hill Center’s application for a liquor license.
Last month, ANC6B, by a vote of 8-0, approved a modified version of the Hill Center’s liquor license application over the objections of neighbors, several of whom noted that they only learned about the Hill Center’s application through EMMCAblog. The action resulted in an organized protest of the license application with the purpose of strengthening the ANC-approved voluntary operating agreement which the neighbors considered inadequate.
In today’s action by ABRA, twenty five of the more than 150 residents who signed a related protest petition, were designated as official parties to the protest. Pope Barrow, Kenneth Cooper, and Jill Lawrence were designated as official representatives of the protestants. Nicky Cymrot, President of the Old Naval Hospital Foundation, and Paul Pascal, attorney for the Hill Center, were present on behalf of the applicant. On Thursday, July 28, at 10 a.m. LaVerne Fletcher, the mediator, will begin mediation between Protest Representatives Barrow, Cooper, and Lawrence and Hill Center Representatives Pascal and Cymrot. The purpose of the mediation is to hammer out a voluntary agreement on hours of operation, number of patrons, entertainment, parking, and the like. The Hill Center’s application seeks operating house from 7a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and until 3 a.m. on weekends, with up to 500 patrons and amplified music inside and in the summer garden. Partly in response to neighborhood concerns, Hill Center has posted alcohol service and entertainment policies on its website which are considerably scaled back from what the extremes of the application would permit.
Neighbors want these additional restrictions – as well as a few more – agreed to in writing as part of a new voluntary agreement. A Status Hearing is tentatively scheduled for August 17, although attorney Pascal requested an earlier date due to vacation plans. When the meeting does occur, ABRA will be informed about whether the two parties to the mediation process have reached agreement. If the applicant and the protestants cannot reach agreement, a Protest Hearing is set for October 5.