ANC Alcohol Committee Hearing on Barracks Row Tavern License Turns Contentious – Virtual Meeting Chat Function Faulted
by Larry Janezich
Posted January 7, 2022
ANC6B’s ABC Committee held a virtual meeting last night on the Tavern Liquor License application for “As You Are” the LBGTQ bar coming to the Barracks Row at the location formerly occupied by District Soul Food and before that, Banana Café. More than 100 tuned in a meeting which turned, at times, contentious. It ended hours later, with no resolution but with a plan for commissioners to meet with residents and owners over the weekend to try to hammer out a Settlement Agreement to address neighbor’s concerns before next Tuesday’s full ANC meeting. City regulations provide for the ANC to weigh in with an opinion on approval of liquor licenses. A Settlement Agreement is a signed agreement between the owners and the ANC which sets out how the establishment will operate and becomes part of the license after approval by the Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Commission. The application for a tavern license instead of the restaurant license held by previous occupants of the site means the new venue could stay open later and serves less food than a restaurant.
Nearby residents have long bemoaned the interruption to their sleep patterns and quality of life caused by late night departing patrons of previous restaurants on the corner of 8th and E Streets, SE. They fear later hours and less food will send even more inebriated bar goers reeling into the streets even later than before. Supporters of the LBGTQ community from all over the city vocalized their support for the proposed tavern. The owners demonstrated the excessive measures they have taken or plan to take to alleviate neighbor concerns including state of the art soundproofing and safety monitors governing conduct of patrons which will include reminders to be respectful of the neighborhood upon departure.
While discussion during the meeting was civil enough, the same could not be said for some of the comments in the chat function which afforded attendees the opportunity to comment freely on the comments and motivations of discussion participants. Following some blunt declarations by nearby residents about their feelings on the proposed business, some supporters of the proposed tavern took to the chat function to criticize and characterize in personal and unflattering terms the opponents of the tavern license and their comments, provoking in return a response from some of the nearby residents.
After a unanimous vote to refer the license application to the full ANC next week in hopes that a compromise could be reached before then, Chair Brian Ready said he had anticipated the chat degenerating into trolling and cautioned attendees about their responsibility to maintain civil discourse during the meeting. Following that, commissioners discussed whether the chat remarks were part of the official record of the meeting, subject to public dissemination. It seems clear that the chat is not, and raises the question whether the chat function should be activated during virtual meetings. Since the ANC meetings are conducted according to Roberts Rules of Order – which did not anticipate this technological advance – the chat function appears to violate the rule that no person can speak until recognized by the chair and – last night at least – the rule that prohibits personal remarks during debate.
At best, ANC meetings follow Robert’s Rules only in the loosest sense, and most commissioners in the four ANCs CHC follows closely are only vaguely familiar with them. The advent of virtual meetings – which appear to be on the verge of becoming standard operating procedure after resumption of in person meetings by the city council and ANCs – has resulted in the prolongation of ANC meetings by hours – sometimes starting at 7:00pm and going past midnight. Observation suggests the time could be shortened considerably by greater knowledge of and adherence to Robert’s Rules. This would undoubtedly work to the benefit of the commissioners, the participants, the community, and the journalists who cover these meetings.