ANC Commissioners “Shocked” & “Flabbergasted” by Alcohol License Attorney

Attorney Andrew Klein addresses ANC6B Alcohol Beverage Control Committee

Attorney Andrew Kline addresses ANC6B Alcohol Beverage Control Committee

One of  Beuchert's managers (rear) reacts to Klein's presentation before the ANC.

One of Beuchert’s managers (rear) reacts to Kline’s presentation before the ANC.

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.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “ANC Commissioners “Shocked” & “Flabbergasted” by Alcohol License Attorney

  1. Thanks for keeping us informed on this.

  2. Craig D'Ooge

    Personally, I am thrilled to see someone standing up to the shakedown tactics used by an ANC, when their purely advisory authority is often used to extort meaningless neo-Puritan symbolic concessions from bars and restaurants (such as closing 30 min. earlier). Now that ANCs are untethered from their former legal obligation to “incorporate” or even “reflect” community sentiment (they now are only obliged to “consider” it, and who determines if they have done that? Why they do!), they are indeed trying to arrogate to themselves a regulatory authority by proxy under the “great weight” clause, which increasingly the city rightly regards as “light weight..” But you get what you pay for, and in the case of ANC commissioners, that would be nothing. They serve just for the sheer joy of the drama of it all. Voting not to support an applicant because they don’t kow-tow or like their “tone” is just payback out of pique, not out of any “consideration” of community sentiment– just their own vanity.

  3. Mark Lee

    “Bristling with indignation” is actually the appropriate response by the licensing attorney to the continued illegitimate use of Settlement Agreements by this ANC. It’s important to keep in mind that no licensee or license applicant is required by law to sign one (it’s the first thing ABRA will tell you). These instruments are actually intended to resolve real and tangible issues specific to an individual licensee in order to effect a mutually-agreeable resolution when appropriate. They are definitively not statutorily intended for the purpose for which this ANC keeps attempting to deploy them as a weapon of manipulation. It’s an ongoing attempt by this ANC to exert a regulatory and policy-making authority that they simply do not possess. Distributing a “cookie-cutter” regulatory policy document and demanding that all establishments sign it to avoid being protested by these small-minded advisory reps is an abuse of what little power they have in the licensing process. It’s the ongoing illegal behavior of this ANC that “shocks and flabbergasts” – they have no legitimate power to set unique and uniform licensing restrictions and requirements within their micro-area in an effort to establish regulatory policy contrary to citywide law. The sooner they understand this the better – otherwise they are going to waste a lot of time and energy finding out the hard way before the ABC Board.

    • Craig D'Ooge

      Word. But it is getting so even to make the most minor changes to your house or front yard, even the city is recommending you hire an attorney, architect, or landscape architect who are already known to them. IMHO the ANCs have morphed into something they were never intended to be under the Home Rule Act that established them. Theoretically, they were a good idea as a baby step for greater democracy for DC, but if you give people a lofty sounding title like “Commissioner,” it goes to their head. As one attorney told me recently, “If the ANCs had any real authority, DC would become a police state.” Terms limits would be a good start to breaking up the ANC “clubs,” whereby if they leave office at all, they often return as “witnesses” serving to legitimize the viewpoints of sitting commissioners currying favor for a return to office. This type of “logrolling” that goes on among a few neighbors with too much time on their hands is disgusting.

  4. Ivan

    These comments by Craig and Mark are so stuffed with misleading or blatantly incorrect information, it might do well for readers to consider the totality of their commenting by the extreme damage they are will to do to facts to get to their ideological point.

    Lets start with their defense of the lawyer referenced who they are thrilled to see taking on the ANC, calling his approach appropriate. They defend and seem to admire a lawyer who in this case did not accurately represent his client, objected to a settlement agreement that he had not READ, and rather than discussing the merits of any issue simply offered personal opinions about the whole system in DC. Anyone who thinks that is good and appropriate lawyering might want to join the lawyer (Andrew Kline) in paying more attention to the facts.

    Further, to evaluate the worth of Craig and Mark’s endorsement of lawyer Andrew Kline let’s look at this background. Previous to not reading the materials in this case, he was disbarred in the District for three years. Why? – “Kline violated nearly a dozen rules of professional conduct, including committing criminal forgery and engaging in behavior “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Just Google “Andrew Kline disbarred” and get in to the details for yourself. (Don’t be confused by Andrew J. Kline who is a different lawyer who got in to way less trouble)

    The comments by Craig and Mark suggest that this is drama and activity by the the ANC is all for the self-interest and entertainment of the commissioners, and has no remaining connection to actual impacts on specific instances. What total hogwash. I know what neighbors are having to do to constantly try to deal with the rats in their backyards. My neighbors have had serious basement flooding as a direct result of the issues raised in one of the other cases. I invite either of you to my backyard to show you how real these impacts are and how important Settlement Agreements are. Noise. Rats. Odors. They are all extremely real issues in this neighborhood and they are being dealt with holistically and case by case as effectively as they can by the ANC. No one is doing this for fun and to accuse people of such is willfully ignoring the actual experience of many neighbors.

    Now, let’s look at where the antipathy toward the ANC really goes off the rails / jumps the shark. Calling the ANC a club of folks that needs to be broken up possibly by term-limits. Ha. Four Pinocchio’s. Of the current ten commissioners on ANC6B, eight are in their first term. One in the second term and I think the 10th is in the 4th term. Oh and according to the article, the first commissioner to speak up against the rants of Kline is a lawyer whose business includes representing restaurants. It would be really nice to have some Trump like fantasy about this whole situation that floats above actual facts, but there is no club, those that might be suspected of being with the restaurants were leading the critique of the absurd statements by Andrew Kline, and it appears no one was more upset about this horrible representation that the restaurant who had his firm under retainer.

    I was a commissioner for four years. I supported more liquor licenses and renewals than I could count. I was attacked for being a shill of the developers by neighbors unhappy with the Hine Development. But I also have first hand experience in this neighborhood of how this process works. It works best when it is restaurant owners and neighbors working it out to mutual satisfaction – not joy. But there is no question that this would happen much much less often if it were not for the ANC or the settlement agreements that are provided for under DC law.

    My point here is to try and put a little context to the commenters ideological and self-interested posts because they are so outrageously disconnected from the actual facts of what has been happening in this neighborhood. But my other point is to point out what a disaster Andrew Kline. I have seen him in action many times and the fact that he was disbarred for three years is not at all surprising when you consider his actions in the cases discussed here and his history of picking fights for no actual reason.

    • Craig D'Ooge

      An ANC club member, defends his own. The notion that an ANC is the only thing that stands between DC and an outbreak of rat-born cholera is the real hogwash. Their are laws on the books regarding trash and noise. There may be an enforcement issues, but that is something different from an ANC trying to leverage their role as an advisory body into an enforcement arm of the government, or voting against someone because they are affronted by his or her style of presentation. I know nothing about Mr. Kline. Please explain how his standing with the bar has any relevancy to appearing at a monthly meeting of an ANC. It’s not a court of law, but the way many commissioners fulminate and posture (Q.E.D.), they seem to think it is.

      • Ivan

        How does his disbarment have relevance? I guess it has to do with credibility. Maybe he just had a bad day and committed gross negligence, he dis his three years and its all good. But then there it is – he misrepresents a client and rejects a document he hasn’t read and can’t cite specific objections to. I think his credibility is kind of an issue, and that you endorsed him and his arguments sort of undermines your own.

        Calling me a member of a club is really just name calling isn’t it. I mean, there is no actual club or actual collusion or hivemind that has taken over that you can actually point to so you just try to dismiss people with a label. I mean its not like you can point to any real form of collusion other than a group of elected officials following the process and code of the agencies.

        The law in DC puts ABRA in charge of liquor licenses through board orders. The board has a process for including settlement agreements negotiated by the ANC as a mechanism to bring resolution and avoid every contested case coming to the board and going through its process, which is more judicial. There are rules that define this system and ensure that it follows the law. So you see, the system is legal, its well vetted, it appears to many many others to be rational and lawful.

        Maybe that is because they are part of some giant “club”, but maybe its also because it kinds of works and it kind of helps. You are right that it does not completely and on its own solve every problem (including cholera) but then you are the only person raising that red herring.

        We get you don’t like the system, and Mark Lee doesn’t like the system, but I hope folks will keep reading your responses to see just how much stock they should put in to that opinion.