Ugly Mug Retractable Roof Issue Settled as ANC Withdraws Protest
Tensions Still Simmer Between Restaurants and Nearby Neighbors
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6B voted to withdraw its complaint against the Ugly Mug expansion with retractable roof, contingent upon owner Gaynor Jablonski signing an agreement the ANC had negotiated between him and nearby neighbors. A last minute snafu – attributed by ANC6B Commissioner James Loots to his own carelessness – animated Commissioner Diane Hoskins to attempt to coax Jablonski to commit to an earlier closing of his glass roof on Friday night.
Loots had distributed the draft agreement to residential neighbors which lead some of them to believe that the Ugly Mug had agreed to close its roof at 10:30 pm on Friday nights. That version was presented at the ANC meeting on Tuesday and Loots characterized the 10:30 pm reference as a typo, saying that it had always been the intent to treat Friday and Saturday the same with a 12 midnight closing time for the roof .
Commissioner Diane Hoskins from the adjoining single member district on Barracks Row seized the moment to ask Jablonski if he would close his roof at the earlier hour.
Jablonski said, “I can’t do that,” and explained the extra time on Friday night accounted for a lot of revenue and given the other concessions he’d made, including closing the roof during any live entertainment or karaoke, the later closing time on Friday was fair and reasonable.
Barbara Charles, one of the 20 nearby residents on Barracks Row itself, expressed her concerns to the ANC in a letter, which she read aloud to the Commission. She stated what she believed to be the sentiment of the other neighbors that adding the retractable roof and the expanded seating would add considerable noise, as well as refuse to the alley. She also expressed her disappointment to find that – despite Jablonski’s earlier agreement that all of the nearby second story residents on 8th Street would receive the noise protection accorded to nearby residents on 7th, I, and G Streets, the final draft Settlement Agreement excluded the residences with addresses on 8th Street. She also told the ANC, that the Settlement Agreement allows the Ugly Mug to begin operations a half hour earlier than the opening time specified on its alcohol beverage license.
The second story of the Ugly Mug used to house residents, as did the second floor of an adjacent building at 725 8th Street, SE. Intolerable quality of life issues forced both of those residential occupants to move, opening up space over the Ugly Mug for expansion, and opening up commercial space on the second floor next door for the offices of Capitol Hill Village. The latter has expressed concern about the impact of the bar’s expansion on their ability to conduct business in their rented space.
7th Street resident Linda Elliot asked the ANC to explain to residents why they would double the size of a (bar/restaurant) which had had numerous violations of the health code and a violation of the fire code. DC law calls these transgressions “primary violations.”
Charles also pointed to recent changes in DC law which she said should concern the ANC (and all residents who unite to protest a liquor license to the Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Agency – ABRA). That change provides that if an ANC withdraws its protest before ABRA regarding a liquor license, then any other protest lodged against a liquor license (except those of an adjacent neighbor) falls with it. The dis-empowerment of residents by empowering the ANC works against the interests of residents since ANC’s – which are weak to begin with – are seldom willing to expose that weakness by going toe to toe with government agencies to back community concerns.
Charles commended Commissioner Brian Flahaven for addressing the Council Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs about the unequal status that ABRA has created for the ANCs. She noted that the group protest currently pending against the Ugly Mug would fall if the ANC signed off on the proposed settlement agreement and said ANC6B may be the first ANC to use this power and in doing so, set a precedent for other ANC’s.
The final vote was 6 – 1 – 3, with Commissioners Samolyk, Jayaraman, Burger, Oldernburg, Chao, and Flahaven voting to approve. Commissioner Hoskins voted to oppose, and Commissioners Krepp, Loots, and Hagedorn abstained.
Jablonski comes back before ANC6B next month to try to satisfy resident’s concerns about trash and rodent issues.