Barracks Row Matchbox Thumbs Nose at ANC and Neighbors
Owners Refuse to Limit Patio Hours
by Larry Janezich
Fred Hermann of Matchbox told ANC6B on Tuesday night that since Matchbox doesn’t operate a loud patio and has otherwise operated responsibly, “there is no reason to adjust our hours.” He said that the ability to operate their business as they saw fit was their right as business owners, and further, “We don’t want the ANC to dictate when we can do business.”
Hermann appeared before the Commission to support the renewal of the restaurant’s C-2 liquor license. All other restaurant operators on Barracks Row whose licenses are up for renewal in the current round have agreed to end their outdoor patio service at midnight Sunday – Thursday and 1:00am on Friday and Saturday. Matchbox currently provides patio service until 2:00am Sunday – Thursday, and 3:00am Friday and Saturday. ANC6B had asked Matchbox to sign a “settlement agreement” (formerly “voluntary agreement”) with the ANC, and swing into line with the other establishments. The agreement would have permitted exceptions for special events on a case-by-case basis. The settlement agreements come on behalf and in the interest of nearby neighbors who have had long-standing issues with noise on Barracks Row and on their streets as loud patrons walk to their cars in early morning hours.
Hermann’s thumbing his nose at the ANC was not well received. Commissioner Garrison said he was “flabbergasted” at the “audacity of the move,” and urged commissioners to support a protest of the license to the ABC Commission. Commissioner Oldenburg told Hermann, “I’m very disturbed by this. The other restaurants on Barracks Row agreed to this; now one won’t do it. I’m very disappointed.” Commissioner Peisch, in whose single member district the restaurant lies, also express his unhappiness.
Commissioner Frishberg noted that in front of the ANC’s ABC Committee last week, Matchbox had only asked for flexibility for special events, and tonight has come back with something different. None the less, he didn’t think the ANC had a solid case to justify a protest and he was concerned that the ABC Commission would ignore a protest that can’t be justified. Commissioner Pate said he would support the motion to oppose – saying that the ANC may lose, but it is worth trying.
A motion to protest was agreed to 8 – 0 – 2. A vote to protest signals the ANC’s concern and usually puts pressure on the applicant to sign a settlement agreement.
ANC6B’s concerns are several. Matchbox playing by different rules than everyone else opens the door to future refusals from other restaurants who can claim a competitive disadvantage. In addition, since the license stays with the location rather than the operator, a new owner who might not be able to make the same management claims as Matchbox could be difficult to rein in. Most commissioners appeared to believe that Matchbox’s refusal sets a bad precedent that will only cause them future problems.