ANC Commissioners “Shocked” & “Flabbergasted” by Alcohol License Attorney
by Larry Janezich
Attorney Andrew Kline has represented dozens of restaurants seeking or renewing alcohol licenses which have come before ANCs – many have come before ANC6B. Last Thursday night, in an appearance before ANC6B’s Alcohol Beverage Control Committee, he bristled with indignation that the ANC would presume to attach conditions to their endorsement of the renewal of a liquor license for his client, Beuchert’s Saloon. (Conditions written into a “Settlement Agreement” between a restaurant and the ANC on behalf of the neighborhood are routine in virtually every license application or renewal.)
Kline told the committee that his client would not sign an agreement and that he (Kline) did not recognize the ANC’s rule making authority. Asked by committee Chair Chander Jayaraman if he had read the proposed agreement, Kline said he hadn’t had an opportunity to review it.
Challenged by Commissioner James Loots that the only person well served by Kline’s tack – which would lead to an ANC protesting renewal of the license – was Kline himself, the attorney indicated that he was prepared to suffer the protest of the license by the ANC and take the issue to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. He persisted with his objections, interrupting and speaking loudly over commissioners who were trying to speak (not only a mistake but a violation of decorum), until Jayaraman silenced him with a crescendos of “Thank yous”.
ANC6B has made a concerted effort to standardize the operating procedures for restaurants on Barracks Row and the Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, commercial corridor in the interests of addressing quality of life issues for nearby neighbors, including rodents, noise, odors and trash. In recognition of those efforts which have been supported by a well-organized group of nearby residential neighbors, many restaurants have voluntarily become role models for best operating practices – La Vagna was singled out Thursday night – while others still have to be coerced.
Commissioner Loots told Kline that he was “flabbergasted” that Kline refused to participate in the process. Commissioner Diane Hoskins, recounting amiable discussions with the the management of Beuchert’s Saloon, said she was “disappointed that this had spiraled into something that no one had intended”, and that she was “shocked how this has gone”. Subsequently, the committee voted to protest the renewal of the license by a vote of 5 – 0 – 1.
At the end of the meeting, a late-arriving Brenden McMahon, one the the owners of Beuchert’s, expressed his apologies to the committee.
CHC reached out to McMahon for comment and received the following response:
“Last night was the first time I have ever met Mr. Kline and in no way had intended for him to represent us in the manner he did. [We] have worked very well with the neighborhood and ANC for 4 years and intend to continue that. His presence was a mistake and miscommunication that, apparently, got out of hand. I was deeply embarrassed to hear we had been represented in that way and rushed over as soon as I heard. I do believe everyone knows who we are though and don’t anticipate the incident sticking to us. I apologized to all ANC members at the end of the meeting and they all seemed to genuinely understand it was a misrepresentation.”
One ANC commissioner close to the issue told CHC that it was likely a signed settlement agreement would be in place before the issue comes before the full ANC6B May meeting,
As it turned out, Kline rose several more times during Thursday night’s meeting representing other restaurants, all of whose license renewals are problematic, including: Hanks Oyster Bar, Ambar, and the three restaurants operated by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn: Bearnaise; We, The Pizza; and Good Stuff Eatery. Kline, perhaps realizing that his representation of Beuchert’s had crossed a line, indicated a willingness to work with the ANC on issues concerning these restaurants.
Issues with the Mendelsohn restaurants have been well documented on CHC, see here: http://bit.ly/1SVuqMU
In addition, of particular concern to the committee was Ambar on Barrack Row. Commissioner Loots cited complaints from residential and nonresidential neighbors regarding deliveries, noise from mechanicals, odors, open trash containers, rat feces, spilled food, and employees loitering and smoking in the alley.
ANC6B meets for its regular monthly meeting next Tuesday, May 10, at 7:00pm in Hill Center. It’s going to be a long meeting.