ANC6B Piqued at City Over Gambling, Eastern Market & the Boys and Girls Club
by Larry Janezich
Posted November 11, 2020
ANC6B’s met virtually for 4 and ½ hours last night and there was plenty of grumbling about the short shrift city government gives the community representatives. Resentments flared on the city council’s failure restrict sports gambling from setting up shop in neighborhood commercial districts, on DGS’s lack of response to community concerns on Eastern Market, and on DMPED’s lack of transparency and response to ANC concerns on development of Reservation 13.
Handle 19 – Sports Wagering.
ANC6B voted 6 – 2 – 1 last night to formally protest ABRA issuing a liquor license with a gambling endorsement to Handle 19, the sports book/restaurant that owner Shane August wants to open at 319 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. The protest was made on the basis of peace, order, and quiet and parking and vehicular/pedestrian safety.
The proposed business is in Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk single member district. She said proponents and opponents handled the controversy well, and said, “Unfortunately, this is just not the right location (because there are too many close by schools.”
The proposed hours for Handle 19 are 11:00am until 1:00am, Sunday thru Thursday, and 11:00am until 2:30am Friday and Saturday. Gambling would have to cease at midnight every night.
Handle 19’s attorney Ian Thomas said he couldn’t speculate on what would happen if the protest is successful and the liquor license is denied, but could say that Handle 19 doesn’t need an alcohol license to have sports wagering or serve food. He said the Handle 19 has partnered with a restaurant group that has a number of restaurants throughout the city to run the food and beverage side of the business.
As the process plays out over the next few months, there is a slim chance that a Settlement Agreement might be reached as the result of ABRA required mediation. It is also likely that if the protest fails and ABRA grants a liquor license, the agency will impose some operating restrictions on Handle 19 to address community concerns.
Commissioners Kelly Waud and Corey Holman voted against the protest, the former saying she had a hard time seeing how Handle 19 differed from a restaurant, and the latter supporting a settlement agreement noting that although poorly implemented, “it’s the law.”
Commissioner Steve Holtzman responded, saying the high volume of traffic in and out of Handle 19 would burden an already stressed traffic infrastructure and present a danger associated with conditions that accompany that.
Commissioner Jerry Sroufe said “the City Council didn’t do us any favors, and should have considered where sports betting establishments can occur.”
ANC6B also took umbrage at the recently released Eastern Market Strategic Study for not specifying the ANC’s a role in the future governance of Eastern Market, voting 8 – 0 – 1 to send a letter to DGS and to Councilmember Charles Allen asserting that the ANC expects to have a significant role in any future governing structure. Further, the ANC will clarify its expectations once DGS responds to questions submitted to them by the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, which features ANC representation.
The $300,000 study, commissioned by DEMPED, outlines a process for implementing a recommendation that Eastern Market transition to a joint public/non-profit governing body, but was vague about community representatives who would be participating both in the implementation and ultimately in governing the Market. One of the questions the ANC wants an answer to – as expressed in the EMCAC letter to DGS referenced above – is a request for details about how members of the implementation committee will be selected.
Commissioner Chander Jayaraman spoke for most commissioners when he said, “I’m very concerned that the role of the ANC is being marginalized. We have a greater role to play in the governance of the Market.” He called for setting a marker with a letter to DGS and Allen, expressing the ANC’s concerns.
EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder was on hand to offer reassurances. She said it was “shocking” that the study team did not consult the ANC during the writing of the report, but that the process of figuring out how to govern Eastern Market would be a long one and would involve writing new legislation, providing plenty of opportunities for the ANC to make its position known.
Boys and Girls Club
ANC6B frustration at lack of response from DMPED about Reservation 13 boiled over on the issue of the Boys and Girls Club development. As reported earlier in CHC, economic considerations scuttled developer Joel Kelty’s original plan to redevelop the site, and – with the backing of DMPED – Kelty came up with a new 100% affordable housing project instead of the mixed affordable/market value project originally planned. But authorization for the original project will time out in the next month or so, and the “term sheet” for disposition of the public land needs to be extended by the city council. Initially, Commissioner Denise Krepp wanted ANC6B to oppose the extension until DMPED responds to a list of questions on Reservation 13 which she and the ANC6B Hill East Task Force sent to DMPED. Other commissioners thought it unwise to do anything to impede progress on the Boys and Girls Club.
Commissioner Corey Holman, Chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee, suggested a letter to the city council, requesting that the city deny the term sheet change unless DMPED responds in writing no later than Friday, November 20, to ANC6B and community questions on Reservation 13. The letter also requested any city council consideration of the term sheet change not happen before the council’s scheduled December 1 legislative meeting, to allow possible ANC consideration of the matter. The motion to send the letter was adopted, 7 – 2 – 0.