Ugly Mug Seeks to Double Seating & Add Retractable Roof – Photos
Owner Claims His Hands Are Tied on Rodent/Trash Issues
by Larry Janezich
Last night Gaynor Jablonski, owner of the Ugly Mug on 8th Street and District Two Bar & Grill and Jake’s American Grill in NW, presented his request for a proposed second floor expansion of the Ugly Mug to ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Committee. Any substantial change in a liquor license (increased seating) requires approval of the Alcohol Beverage Review Board (ABRA), and the ANC’s weigh in on the question. The committee makes a recommendation to the full ANC, which meets next week.
Jablonski’s plan entails gutting the two current second floor apartments above the “Mug” and adding a new 16 x 30 foot room behind them, providing room for an additional 100 seats to his restaurant and raising the capacity from the current 89 to a total of 189. The new 16 x 30 room would have a retractable glass roof which would open when the weather allowed for it.
Considerable resistance has developed among nearby residents, not only from those in close proximity, but from those who are trying to impose standard best operating practices regarding noise, odor, trash disposal and rodent control for all of the food establishments on Barracks Row. Recently, neighbors have organized successfully to bring best operating practices as a condition of &Pizza’s approval for an outlet on Barracks Row. Commissioner Ivan Frishberg has stated that he hoped that would become a model for the rest of the food businesses on the street.
Jablonski spent considerable time explaining why his hands were tied by structural and economic limitations regarding his ability to address trash and rodent concerns. “Why should I be penalized for having come here 8 years ago?” he asked the Committee.
Clearly, nearby neighbors who were in attendance felt that the answer to that question is that Jablonski is asking to more than double the size of his operation, while not taking robust measures to mitigate the effects of this expansion on the neighborhood.
Seven of those nearby neighbors who attended the meeting in the cramped Frager’s Conference Room on the third floor of the Hill Center rose to express their concerns, which focused especially on trash and noise (Jablonski intends to move his DJ from the first to the second floor) but included parking as well.
Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg alluded to a large volume of emails commissioners had received expressing concerns about the expansion.
One resident of the block spoke in favor of the expansion, saying she encouraged development and thought that additional foot traffic would benefit Barracks Row. She said the Ugly Mug had been a responsible neighbor, and that she had moved to her apartment on the block expecting to live with the noise generated by a commercial strip.
The greatest concerns of committee members seemed to be trash, rodents, and limiting the time when the glass roof would be opened. Jablonski is hoping the committee will approve the same closing time for the glass roof as for his outdoor patio, 11:00pm Sunday through Thursday, and midnight on Friday and Saturday. He said that providing inside trash storage would be prohibitively expensive. Regarding odors, he said he thought controls were unnecessary,
“the odor coming out is good – its food.” He said he was willing to “look into it” but “it would be very expensive.”
Commissioner Brian Pate told Jablonski that he was asking the committee to create “additional externalities which are problems for the neighbors…I’d like to think there’s a better way of dealing with trash than when you moved in to the space” in 2008, and Pate urged Jablonski to find a way to address the trash and rodent issues, saying he can’t support the request for expansion unless Jablonski comes up with best practices. Jablonski said “It will be very expensive, but I have no problem with giving it a shot.”
Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg said that for her there were two issues – trash, which in her opinion a voluntary agreement cannot control because management schemes fail, and hours for having the glass roof open, which can be controlled.
Committee Chair Sara Loveland said she was inclined to support the expansion if hours for the open roof could be finalized and the trash issue could be addressed.
The committee subsequently voted 5 – 0 to take no position regarding a recommendation to the full committee which will take up the issue at its meeting next Tuesday at Hill Center, when it will hear again from Jablonski.
ABRA is scheduled to hear the request on November 10.