Monthly Archives: July 2011

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. has led the efforts in navigating ABRA regulations and liaising with Hill Center.


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Neighborhood Group Files Formal Protest On Hill Center Liquor License Application – Wants New, Tougher Voluntary Operating Agreement

Neighborhood Group Files Formal Protest On Hill Center Liquor License Application – Wants New, Tougher Voluntary Operating Agreement

by Larry Janezich

On Tuesday, July 5, a protest letter signed by 27 nearby neighbors of The Hill Center was filed with the Alcohol Beverage Review Administration (ABRA).  Backing up the letter was a petition of support signed by some 150 neighbors who live around The Hill Center who will be affected by the Center’s business plan.  That plan includes raising a major portion of the Center’s operating funds by renting out space for receptions and weddings.  Well known Hill residents Jill Lawrence and Barbara Eck have been spearheading the protest effort and working to keep the community informed.  The full text of the protest letter is on emmcablog in a separate posting below..

The protest letter outlines the concerns the neighbors have to the licensing stipulations written on the Hill Center’s posted liquor license application.  (See emmcablog posting on June 1).

ANC6B lent its approval to the liquor license June 15, on an 8-0 vote after working out a voluntary agreement (VA).  (See emmcablog posting on June 15) . The protesters feel this VA inadequate.  The group is not working with the ANC now because they feel the Commission did not reach out to the neighbors prior to the ANC vote and because it endorsed the liquor license application with minor changes after hearing only objections to the license from the crowd of neighbors who spoke at the meeting.

Following the formal filing of the letter on Tuesday, protest group representatives contacted Old Naval Hospital Foundation President Nicky Cymrot and told her the protest had been filed to make possible the negation of a new VA that each side could live with.  Group representatives said Cymrot pledged to see what the Hill Center’s Board of Directors wanted to do and would let the group know.  As of posting time, no word had come from Cymrot.  The protestors hope to reach an agreement and get a VA signed and registered with ABRA even before the ABRA’s “Roll Call hearing” on July 18th.  If that is not accomplished, group leaders say that many more than the required five protesters will appear at the meeting to validate the protest.

In that case, the process for forging a new VA passes to the oversight of a mediator assigned by ABRA to work with both sides to craft an agreement.  Negotiations could begin immediately after the meeting, or the sides may agree to meet at a later date and time.  The two sides can agree to meet prior to a mediation to begin working on details, and the process continues for as long as it takes.

According to Barbara Eck, “ABRA often has multiple protests of a license that sometimes results in more than one VA with differing terms.  They strongly encourage the groups to combine terms into one VA to facilitate enforcement.  No applicant wants to be governed by more than one voluntary agreement.”

On Friday, the protest group met to consider what specifics the VA should cover.  They identified the items in the Hill Center operation plan posted on the website that the group wants written into the VA.  They also identified other items they want included in the agreement.

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Text of Neighbors’ Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Liquor License Application

Text of Neighbors’ Formal Protest to Hill Center’s Liquor License Application

TO:                  Alcohol Beverage Control Board

FROM:            Near Neighbors of Hill Center Protest Group

RE:                  Protest of issuance of the following new license as described on the placard

DATE:            July 1, 2011

ABRA License # 086926

Old Naval Hospital Foundation

t/a The Hill Center

921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

C – Multipurpose

We, the undersigned residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Hill Center at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E, protest the issuance of a Class “C’ alcohol beverage license with entertainment endorsement, and the operation of events in the gardens with 500 person occupancy. The issuance of such a license with its listed hours of operation (7a.m. to 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.) for dancing, occasional DJ and live music for special events, will impact adversely on the peace, order and quiet of the neighborhood. Moreover, it will have a significant adverse impact on residential parking needs, vehicular and pedestrian safety, and real property values.


The openness of the Hill Center building and grounds is inappropriate for large, late parties with amplified music and dancing. This use will harm peace, order, and quiet; and real property values.

The applicant’s request for occupancy of 500 people with alcohol service from 7 am to as late as 3 a.m., with amplified entertainment outdoors, is not compatible with this 90% residential neighborhood, which in much of the surrounding area is fairly quiet.

To the north the unbuffered, 8-lane-wide Pennsylvania Avenue corridor allows sound from the Hill Center to travel to the Butterfield House condos 1020 Pa Ave, 400 block of 10th, 300 block of 9th, and 800 block of D.

Directly to the south (E Street, South Side) are the front windows of row houses that are so close (approximately 60′), an average boisterous conversation on the back stairs of the Hill Center can be heard inside these homes.


The surrounding blocks are over 85% Residential. Petitions signed by large numbers of homeowners and renters living in the neighboring 25 residential blocks between 8th and 12th and C and G, SE reveal the widespread concern of neighbors, many of whom currently enjoy peace, quiet, safety and reliable parking.

The nighttime activity in the area around the Hill Center is completely different to the east than it is directly south and west.  The northeast and southeast are currently calm and quiet with good parking. Also, to the east side, only 4 blocks are commercial and that type of commercial is small stores and offices that close at 7 pm. – no bars and no liquor stores.  This area will suffer extreme adverse effects of parking, noise and public safety from late, loud Hill Center activities.

In marked contrast is the situation currently faced by residents living to the south and west of the Hill Center.  They are already dramatically impacted by the number of bars and restaurants on 8th Street Barracks Row.  They have ongoing multiple issues with noise and parking currently.  With the addition of late night activities at the Hill Center, they will be surrounded on all sides  which will cause adverse effects for them as well.


Residents in the neighborhood expect the following four categories of adverse effects to result from issuing this liquor license with its current stipulations:


Neighborhood homes are known for quiet sidewalks and back yards, with birds, squirrels, outdoor patio tables and chairs, and auxiliary rooms where people work in home-based businesses.

Noise, parking, and safety problems due to loud, late parties with large numbers of people will adversely affect selling prices and rents and could increase the time on the market, causing monetary loss.  The reputation of the neighborhood would suffer as the word spreads about nighttime outdoor announcements and wedding bands. Many of us are nearing retirement or retired and rely on our homes retaining value or growing in value for potential sale in the future.


The requested alcohol service beginning at 7 am and extending to 2 am on weekdays and 3 am on week nights will result in disruption of the peace, order and quiet of the neighborhood and disrupted sleep for nearby residents. There are four issues:

A. Noise – Outdoor Amplification in the Summer Garden

With amplified music and dancing outdoors with up to 500 people, it is highly unlikely that amplified voices and music will not exceed the legal limits of 60 db at the fence line of the property, which is the sound level of a microwave oven.

The Summer Garden grounds are higher than surrounding sidewalks and roads, with no buffers of evergreens, hedges or abutting buildings to control or contain this sound. Because there is no other nightlife in the immediate vicinity, there is little ambient sound of traffic or hum of voices to mask sound from the Hill Center’s DJ’s, live bands or dancing.

B. Noise – Indoor Amplification with Bands, DJs and Dancing

The largest room available for events is in the middle of the back (south side) of the Hill Center along the 900 block of E Street, SE. The windows directly face neighbors’ bedroom windows.

Amplified sounds from behind the windows will be difficult to contain, especially live bands or DJs which tend to have thumping, rhythmic vibrations. Having entertainment continue past 10 pm on weekdays or past 11 pm on weekends would cause great hardship to the E Street neighbors, especially elderly and those with young children.

C. Noise – Loading of Equipment from and to Commercial Vehicles

With alcohol service closing times of 2 am or 3 am, the neighbors anticipate 2 subsequent hours of noise from trucks loading tables, chairs, heating and serving platters, alcohol, glasses, stages, structures and tent plus trash. Loading these trucks is very noisy (metal on metal – wood on wood) with loud clunking, banging and rolling as well as idling and beeping as they back up. These are inappropriate sounds after 11 on a weeknight or after midnight on a weekend.

The 7 am start time for a breakfast with alcohol would mean that the trucks would unload equipment as early as 5 am, potentially violating the DC noise ordinance.

D. Noise – Patrons exiting and roaming our residential side streets to their cars.

Any event with large numbers of guests loudly and energetically celebrating with amplified music and dancing until late hours under the influence of free liquor will result in disturbance of the quiet neighborhood in the middle of the night. Their voices will be boisterous – calling out, laughing, beeping car alarms, flirting, possibly fighting, crying, peeing, and throwing up—all taking place under the windows of sleeping neighbors.

Families, including children, retirees and hardworking adults live across the streets to the north, south, and west—the streets where guests of the Hill Center will seek free parking and return to their cars late at night, many of them drunk.


The neighborhood near the Hill Center is in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Few of the 1800s buildings have parking, and there are very few parking lots nearby – even of minimal size. Residents rely on the small amount of on-street parking that exists. Residents pay for use of this public space with our taxes. The Hill Center has not planned parking for the large numbers of guests listed on the application, except for a few handicapped parking spaces on the property. These are the major issues:

  1. Current Parking Congestion

To the southwest of the Hill Center, parking is very congested already due to the 8th Street Barracks Row restaurants and bars. Parking is already eliminated from the west side of 9th in the 700 block for weekly Marine events leaving residents with nowhere to park.

To the northeast, the ratio of cars to street parking spaces is comfortably full. Residents are currently able to safely and reliably park near our homes; however, there are no extra spaces left over once everyone is home.

  1. No Parking Lots

There are no nearby parking lots (within 3 blocks) of a size sufficient to accommodate a large, sudden influx of cars for an event. There is one small lot for an elementary school 2 blocks away, but it holds a limited number of cars and is already contracted for Friday evenings from mid-May to Labor Day for guests of the Marine event. These are the same months of high operation for the Hill Center garden and already traffic jams are common.

  1. Few Open Metered Spaces

On weekdays, the metered spaces in front of the Hill Center on Pennsylvania Avenue are already mostly full as used by the row house offices. On weekends, they are filled by visitors to Eastern Market, Barracks Row, Frager’s Hardware, CVS, and other commercial establishments. Additional spaces will be taken by teachers and students coming for classes.

  1. Residential Side Streets Used by Wider Ward 6 Visitors

The residential side streets of 9th, 10th, 11th G, E, D, South Carolina and C are legally open to any and all of the 75,000 residents of Ward 6 who have a Zone 6 residential parking sticker. The neighbors already suffer from the wide use of these spaces by people who live 10-20 blocks away who come to take Metro or visit Eastern Market businesses.


If the Hill Center becomes known as a rentable, late-night party establishment, it could become a magnet for one-time hosts who have no reason to care about safety of the neighborhood.

A. Vehicular Safety

Drunk Driving

The later the party lasts, the more alcohol is consumed, the greater the drunk driving risk.

Traffic Jams

The Hill Center plans to use its side entrance on 9th Street, SE for everyone – all handicapped visitors, caterers, non-profit employees, event goers, teachers, classroom students, and staff. This will create a vehicular traffic safety issue. Use of the side entrance will bring increased traffic around on E Street to turn right to let passengers out at the gate.

Because 9th Street is very narrow and cars approach from both directions, and are likely to let off passengers on both sides, blocking access for disabled patrons to use parking spots on the grounds. Across the street a gas station has two driveways and an alley that need to be accessible for customers and fuel truck deliveries. Congestion on both E and 9th streets will lead to bumper-to-bumper blocked roadways with predictable honking and possibly road rage.

B. Pedestrian (and Guest) Safety with Large, Late-night Crowds

Crowd Control on Neighborhood Side Streets

Extreme overcrowding of the neighborhood roadways and sidewalks would occur if 500 people came to one event and most of them left simultaneously in the early morning hours.

Summer Garden Small Size Creates Overcrowding Dangers

Overcrowding the grounds is a problem for pedestrian safety in case of an emergency exit needed for fire, fight, or other incident.  People inside the required tent in the Summer Garden have no fence opening or gate on the eastern side of the property through which to exit in a hurry. There is potential for injuries during an emergency due to the tall ornamental iron fence with few openings. If hundreds of people spill into the streets, there is significant risk of injury from traffic.

Insufficient Room Inside the Building

The largest inside room has occupancy of slightly over 100 people.  Even the entire 2nd floor can’t hold 500 people if severe weather forces people inside.

Minors’ Access to Alcohol

Overcrowding can also lead to underage drinking even if minors are not being served, because people leave drinks unattended, and managers simply cannot monitor a dense crowd.


The Hill Center’s nearest neighbors applaud the renovation of the Old Naval Hospital to become an educational and cultural non-profit. We want to help them raise needed funds without shouldering an unfair burden from seeing, hearing, feeling and cleaning up after its parties.

To reduce the adverse effects on the near neighbors, we request that the license for the Hill Center specify no amplification outdoors in the garden at all and we request that the license restrict the number of visitors and restrict event hours to end before Metro closes, so that Eastern Market Metro is a viable transportation option.


Name (Print)                           Address (Print)                                   Signature

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ANC Planning and Zoning Committee Clears Way for Chipotle Mexican Grill on Barracks Row – Vote by Full ANC Scheduled for July 12

The Ayes Have It As All Ten ANC6B Commissioners Vote for Chipotle

ANC Planning and Zoning Committee Clears Way for Chipotle Mexican Grill on Barracks Row – Vote by Full ANC Scheduled for July 12

by Larry Janezich

Tuesday night, ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee, chaired by Commissioner Francis Campbell, voted 10 – 0 for a special exception to the ban on fast food restaurants on Barracks Row for Chipotle Mexican Grill.  Chipotle will open an outlet at 413 8th Street, SE, in the space currently occupied by Dollar + Continental.  The building’s owner, StreetSense Development, has given Chipotle a 20 year lease on the building.  The development company’s representative announced that China Wall, which occupies adjoining space, also part of the StreetSense property, is not expected to stay.  As part of the deal, StreetSense pledged – should they seek to place a fast food restaurant in the China Wall space – to apply for a separate special exception for that location rather that utilize the fast food license that transferred with the property.

The Committee vote came on the motion to approve the special exception, but with a request that the Bureau of Zoning Adjustment limit the exception specifically to Chipotle.  This restriction is apparently unprecedented, but not prohibited by the regulations.  The ANC made clear that their support was not contingent on the proposed BZA limitation.  .

In ANC6B, all commissioners are members of the standing committees, taskforces, and the executive committee.  Tonight, all ten commissioners were present for a show of hands in support of Chipotle.  The vote forwards the issue to the full ANC meeting for a vote on July 12.  It is likely that the vote by the full commission will be the same as tonight’s vote.


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EMCAC Part II: Will City Close Eastern Market’s North Hall on Weekdays? – Issue May Be Tossed to the New Market Governing Authority

Eastern Market North Hall, Friday Morning

EMCAC Part II:  Will City Close Eastern Market’s North Hall on Weekdays? – Issue May Be Tossed to the New Market Governing Authority

by Larry Janezich

Some members of the Eastern Market Citizens Advisory Committee (EMCAC) continue to pressure Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson to close the Eastern Market North Hall during the week.  Margeson has resisted, pointing to city regulations which define the North Hall as community space.  Committee members cite energy costs, liability concerns, and potential damage to the building.  Weekdays, the space has been a go-to place for children and their caretakers seeking like company and a cool/warm/safe environment.  A look at the Eastern Market website event calendar shows regularly scheduled Thursday morning events providing entertainment for children and others.

Committee members are concerned that use of the space by the public during the week will be an established expectation when EMCAC hands over the reins to the new governing authority for Eastern Market provided for in upcoming legislation which will be introduced by Councilmember Tommy Wells.

At last Wednesday’s EMCAC meeting, Chair Donna Sheeder announced that Councilmember Wells is reviewing draft legislation to provide the new governing authority for Eastern Market.  She said that he wants to introduce the bill before the Council begins its summer recess on July 15.  ANC6B could hold a special call meeting on the legislation before the end of July; ANC6B has no meetings scheduled for August.

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Pitango Gelato Is Open

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Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee Update – Part I; Food Trucks – Info Hub – Weekday Farmer’s Market

Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee Update – Part I;  Food Trucks – Info Hub – Weekday Farmer’s Market

by Larry Janezich

Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met on Wednesday, June 29, in Eastern Market’s North Hall.  The following items were among the issues discussed at the meeting. 

Food Truck Trouble?

The popular food trucks which appear on weekends both at Eastern Market and at curbsides on 7th Street near the market and around the Metro Plaza are troubling nearby food outlets and vendors at the Market.  The complaints concern  the competition, parking spaces taken up by the trucks, and queuing which interferes with pedestrian traffic.  One business operator who spoke during the public comment part of Wednesday night’s meeting said that DC currently has 100 food trucks, but New York and Los Angeles have thousands.  EMCAC Chair Donna Sheeder said that EMCAC will consider the issue.   Being discessed are regulations about where and how long the trucks can operate around the market.  Vendors at the market and others are calling for stricter city regulation of the trucks. 

Info Hub

EMCAC member Chuck Burger reported that final conceptual sketches on the Info Hub planned for the Eastern Market Metro Plaza should be finished in the next week.  The schematic will show the precise location of the structure and what would be around it as well as “what is going on inside.”  Construction could begin this fall. 

Burger announced that CHAMPS has set up a non-profit organization – “Celebrate Capitol Hill” – to spearhead a fundraising effort to provide operating expenses for the project.  To kick off this effort, a fund raising party – possibly at the end of July – will be announced soon.  The goal will be to raise $50,000 in pledges – enough to cover operating costs for the first three years. 

Weekday Farmer’s Market Back on the Table

The idea of a weekday farmer’s market one day a week at Eastern Market is once again being discussed by EMCAC.  The new impetus is being driven, in part, by weekday farmer’s markets in NOMA and Penn Quarter.  Watch for a notice on the Eastern Market website soliciting community input.  :


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