ANC6B Grants Neighbors’ Request for Continuance on Ugly Mug Expansion
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6B gave neighbors concerned about proposed expansion of the Ugly Mug another month to resolve their differences with the owner.
During debate, Commissioner Jim Loots, who had crafted an earlier version of a Settlement Agreement to address issues raised by unhappy neighbors, said that additional concessions made by the Ugly Mug’s owner since last Thursday had produced a revised Settlement Agreement. Loots said he was convinced the new agreement was as good as it can get, and if the Settlement Agreement was not acted on Tuesday night, “economic concessions” made by the owner “may not be on the table a month from now.” (See previous CHC posting here: http://bit.ly/1zJIwtc
In response, Linda Elliott, speaking for the group of neighbors who are concerned about the expansion and party to a protest against it filed with the Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Agency (ABRA), told the ANC that “the process has broken down” and implored the ANC to vote for a continuance. Elliott said that none of the issues most important to the neighbors had been addressed in the revised Settlement Agreement.
Those issues are:
- The precedent that approving a retractable roof and year round open air venue will set for all the other commercial corridors in ANC6B.
- Lack of information necessary to assess the impact of the proposed atrium on the neighborhood.
- Unexplored life safety issues, including lack of proof of the Ugly Mug’s required twice yearly cleaning of the vent exhaust fax (which was apparently the cause of a fire in the Ugly Mug’s sister restaurant on H Street, District 2 Bar and Grill), and whether the Ugly Mug has followed a pattern and practice of failing to comply with the DC health code. To that end, the protestants cited 56 violations by the restaurant between 2010 and 2014 that earned the Ugly Mug a D rating from the private “DC Restaurant Inspections” site in 2014. Neighbor’s objections to the trash and rodent issues are a separate issue now before the DC Department of Transportation’s Public Space Committee.
Elliott said that regarding the precedent-setting nature of the decision, “What the ANC does tonight on the Settlement Agreement is a game changer in ANC6B.” She said the nearby residents had diligently pursued these issues since early January and it “isn’t something we’re jumping on at the last minute. “
Commissioner Brian Flahaven said although he thought the Settlement Agreement was good, it was a big step the ANC was about to take, and cited the potential damage to the ANC to use the newly enacted city law to nullify resident’s protests. The new law provides that neighbor’s protests pending before ABRA – except those of adjacent neighbors – dissolve if the ANC withdraws its own protest or votes in favor of a Settlement Agreement. He said, “It is in our best interests to vote for a continuance.”
Commissioner Diane Hoskins moved that the ANC agree to a continuance, noting that a number of her constituents living near restaurants on 8th Street in the adjoining single member district are concerned about the outcome of this issue. (Last year, the previous ANC6B made substantial progress toward establishing a new rigorous operating standard for food and beverage venues on 7th and 8th Street, SE.)
Commissioner Daniel Chao said he had just the opposite situation – “My constituents are cut from a different cloth. They want to go to the Ugly Mug and stay until 4:00am.” Chao represents 6B07, the adjacent single member district east of 11th Street, SE.
When the vote came, the Commission voted to grant the continuance, 7 – 0 – 3. Those in favor: Hoskins, Oldenburg, Hagedorn, Burger, Jayaraman, Flahaven, and Krepp. Those abstaining: Loots, Chao, and Samolyk.