El Sol Mexican Grill at 1251 H Street, NE, is the target of a liquor license protest by ANC6A’s Alcohol Licensing Committee.
Neighbors cited a long litany of complaints about multiple quality of life and safety issues about the alley behind El Sol, Pow-Pow, and the expected arrival of a new restaurant, Bronze, in the space formerly occupied by Milk & Honey.
H Street El Sol’s Liquor License Threatened as ANC Committee Votes to Recommend Protesting Renewal
by Larry Janezich
Posted November 23, 2022
Last night, ANC6A Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee rose up and voted unanimously to protest the renewal of the liquor license for El Sol Mexican Grill at 1251 H Street, NE. Neighbors whose homes back up the restaurant cited on-going issues regarding rodents, trash, noise, delivery trucks, and sanitation, as well and gatherings which sometimes result in criminal activity in the alley behind the restaurant. Residents say that restaurant owner Fernando Postigo pays them lip service affirming his concern about the issues but never takes action to address them.
Postigo presented his application for El Sol’s liquor license renewal. He addressed complaints which he said neighbors had raised about trash, noise from the 2nd floor bar District Daiquiri, and security in the alley. He asserted that a long-idle trash compactor would begin operating within a month, that he had committed to installing lights and security cameras in the alley, and that he hadn’t had any recent complaints about noise from the 2nd floor bar’s rear balcony. He admitted to several DOH citations on trash and to an upcoming ABRA hearing whether District Daiquiri was a second business operating on El Sol’s liquor license. He also admitted that the security camera in the alley had not been operational for 45 days.
Mike Velasquez, current resident member of the Alcohol Beverage Licensing Committee and Commissioner-elect for the Single Member District where El Sol resides, said that neighbors’ concerns are widely shared in the nearby community. Velasquez: “When I scheduled a listening session on this I had to schedule a second meeting to accommodate the number of people who wanted o register their concerns. Frankly the public outcry is overwhelming….Neighbors have engaged directly with the establishment and its management. For years they have been proactive and attempted to be constructive and for years their concerns have gone unheeded by the management. My duty… is to stand up for them and say we are done with the poor practices of this establishment. If this establishment can’t be a good neighbor they can close down their operation on H Street and focus their efforts on operating their other establishments.”
Velasquez pointed out that the restaurant had never been in compliance with the 2016 Settlement Agreement governing operations for El Sol regarding sanitation after garbage pickup, prohibiting dumpsters on public space, and physically identifying trash containers used by El Sol. He submitted recent photos which substantiated the claim.
Given the opportunity to respond, Postigo apologized and said there are a lot of things going on in alley but that he has no control of the alley – “people can go there.”
Committee Chair Erin Sullivan pointed out that things which Postigo can control are apparently not being done – such as the provisions of the 2016 Settlement Agreement. She said, “It is very unusual to have this level of years and years and years of complains being raised without a resolution.”
A Wednesday afternoon visit to the alley behind El Sol brought out Marie, El Sol’s manager. She said she had had a call from management this morning stressing that greater effort needed to be made on the alley. She said she had ordered the installation of a light and camera on the cement block pillar overlooking the alley behind El Sol and went to some lengths to demonstrate the cleanliness of the trash containers, the closed grease barrel, and the absence of rodents. As Postigo did last night, she reiterated that she couldn’t control the alley, but pledged to keep the gate to the area holding the trash compactor (pictured above) locked. She said she had instructed trucks delivering to El Sol twice a week to not use the alley. Finally, she pointed to trash cans of neighbors down the alley as being part of the problem which she can’t control.
She said that starting immediately access to the balcony used by patrons of District Daiquiri would be locked. She has ordered removal of the red cooler and accumulated old furniture from the landing below the balcony and ordered power washing of the alley. She said the area below the below the landing holding the old furniture and the alley fence does not belong to El Sol.
This image shows El Sol’s trash cans – which are supposed to be labeled – and the broken lights an cameras on the rear wall of the former Milk & Honey/Smith Commons, suggesting other near by business will need to be engaged in the effort. Marie says the blue trash containers will be removed once the compactor is operational.
Some committee members sought a middle ground, suggesting a conditional protest based on resolutions of issues raised during the meeting. Discussion suggested that was impractical and Commissioner-elect Velasquez made a motion to recommend the full ANC protest the license renewal at it’s meeting in December 8. The motion passed unanimously.
A protest to a liquor license triggers a set of ABRA protest procedures. A protest letter filed before the petition deadline results in a Roll Call Hearing where an ABRA agent determines if the protesting parties have standing (ANC’s automatically have status). Dates are set for 1) Mediation to seek dispute resolution, 2) a Status Hearing where parties come before the board to discuss the status of the protest, and 3) a Protest Hearing – a formal hearing conducted by ABRA where both parties present arguments and witnesses. The Board issues a written order within 90 days. Many protest cases are resolved by mediation overseen by ABRA.