Residents Feel Left Out of Negotiations on Ugly Mug Settlement Agreement
ANC6B Poised to Approve the Mugs’ Proposed Expansion
by Larry Janezich
Thursday night, ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee brushed aside neighbors’ request for a month’s continuance based on complaints that they’d had no part in negotiations on a Settlement Agreement between ANC6B and the Ugly Mug, voting instead to forward the agreement to the full ANC next week where it is likely to be approved.
As previously reported (http://bit.ly/ZrJ7lp), last year the ANC voted against the planned expansion and the sliding glass roof over an “atrium” based on overwhelming neighborhood opposition, bolstered by photographs demonstrating the Ugly Mug’s failure as a good neighbor. That opposition resulted in ABRA scheduling a protest hearing for February 25 to hear complaints of three parties of protesters: ANC6B, a group of 16 residential neighbors, and businesses adjoining the Ugly Mug.
Approval of a Settlement Agreement at ANC 6B’s upcoming Tuesday night meeting would remove the ANC protest and the protest of the nearby neighbors would automatically fall with it, but the protest of the adjoining businesses would remain.
The circumstances that brought about the change in the ANC’s position involve a Settlement Agreement negotiated with the Ugly Mug negotiated on behalf of ANC6B by Commissioner James Loots, in whose single member district the Ugly Mug resides. At Thursday night’s meeting, ANC Commissioners hailed the agreement as much improved and worthy of support.
Loots is an attorney whose clients have included restaurants on Barracks Row. He has also been counsel in a case in which he represented a group including The Ugly Mug in an unrelated legal matter. This fact lead Commissioner Diane Hoskins to raise the issue of a possible conflict of interest, though she did not use the term. She referred to a “special relationship” that Loots had with the Ugly Mug’s owner, which, she said raised concerns.
Loots attempted to assuage those concerns by emphasizing his limited contact with the Ugly Mug’s owner. But later in the meeting, Loots’ asserted that an email he had received earlier in the afternoon from one of the adjoining business owners stated that if the ANC approved the Settlement Agreement, the adjoining owner would withdraw his protest which allowed those present to infer that the owner was satisfied with the agreement. That interpretation was challenged by one of the nearby residents, who, reading the email, noted that the caveat was that the nearby owner felt that pursuing the protest without the support of the ANC would be pointless.
Among the new concessions that Ugly Mug’s owner has agreed to in the current Settlement Agreement was limiting new seats to 95, extending noise and privacy protection to nearby residents even though he is not required to do so, and closing the atrium at 10:30pm Sunday through Thursday and at midnight Friday and Saturday. The owner also agreed to make extra efforts on trash, sanitation, and rodent control.
Commissioner Chander Jayaraman moved to strengthen the agreement in three respects: extending the definition of entertainment to include karaoke, requiring more frequent trash pickups, and requiring the atrium to be closed at 11:30pm on Friday and Saturday.
When Jayaraman raised this last point, several commissioners were seen to shake their heads in disapproval, seeming to indicating that the request was unreasonable. After a long pause, Jawblonski said, “Why not? Let’s just get this over with” and the weekend time limit was incorporated into the agreement. This exchange would seem to indicate that one of the keys to winning concessions for the neighborhood was locating commissioners willing to negotiate them.
In the end, the Committee voted 8-0-1 (Loots abstaining) to forward the Settlement Agreement to the full ANC without recommendation, and urged residents and the Ugly Mug owner to attempt to resolve any remaining differences at before next Tuesday.
It is worth noting that this is an ANC with seven new commissioners. It usually takes at least a term before a commissioner starts feeling that sense of entitlement that leads him or her to think that he or she knows what’s best for the community and feels free to represent constituents without consulting them or asking for their participation in the process.