ANC 6C discussion on Good Libations

Wednesday night I attended the January ANC 6C meeting. Yesterday I touched on the Triangle related transportation item and this posting will cover the discussion around Good Libations. Voice of the Hill attended the meeting and we can expect a recap on the entirety of the meeting’s topics from them in the near future and when it is published I will link to it.

Good Libations, ANC 2C, 5th and M Streets NW request for single sales exemption

Commissioner Charley Docter outlined concerns about a recent exemption endorsement by ANC 2C of a liquor store just 1/10 of a mile north of the ANC 6C boundaries. He raised the question what standing does the ANC 6C have in the matter and how would the commission want to proceed. The floor was given to Good Libations owner Ron Green and those representation opposition from Madrigal Lofts, 555 Mass and the DNA.

I can’t possibly recap the entirety of the discussion but I think I can hit the major points:

Ron’s statement focused on the two premises.

  • He does not believe that selling singles has to be an all or nothing venture. He appealed to the audience that he does not sell the lowest caliber of products such as Steel Reserve 211s or half pints of liquor but wants the exemption to continue to sell mid-scale and premium beers as singles.
  • He has approval from ANC 2C and the MVSNA which are the stewards of his neighborhood.

Thais from 555 Mass spoke out in opposition to the exemption

  • Described the volume of substance abuse problems in the neighborhood and provided a spatial portrait outlaying proximity of 555 Mass to the 5 area liquor stores and the social service providers including shelters, soup kitchens and AA meetings.
  • Outlined the migration of public drinking to Subway Liquors (5th & K) since the ban went into effect at Chinatown market. Expressed concern that exemptions shift the problem around and undermine the effectiveness of the ban

I also raised reasons for my opposition:

  • Reiterated the quality of life issues that are linked to single sales which plague our neighborhood
  • Cited the ABRA criteria “Impact of an exemption to the effectiveness of the overall ban”
  • Challenged the notion that the moratorium needs to change (through exemptions) before affording people the opportunity to change
  • Included my research on Mt Pleasant’s 8 year ban to my written testimony

Miles Groves spoke on behalf of the DNA.

  • Reiterated the quality of life issues that are linked to single sales which plague our neighborhood
  • Stated that the DNA urged ANC 2C to defer their decision on Good Libations until discussing the exemption with ANC 6C but the request was not honored.

Commissioner Anne Phelps, named chair of the ANC’s licensing committee earlier in the evening, expressed that it was not wise to take a stance until the committee deliberated and devised a process for which all upcoming exemption requests would be uniformly evaluated.

The commissioners discussed the ABRA timelines for the Good Libations exemption request. The outcome was the following (wording emailed to me by RobA):

Move to send a letter to ABRA stating we [ANC 6C] believe we have standing as the immediately adjacent ANC and that we request that ABRA action be delayed until 45 to 60 days from ABRA’s receipt of the application for exemption from the single sales ban. This 45-60 day delay is requested to allow ANC 6C to meet at the committee level to decide a consistent policy for all single sales in 6C and to have that committee decision come before the full Commission for a vote.

REACT: I’m satisfied with the outcome. I’m against single sale beers for all the reasons we’ve been talking about on the blog since December. But the most maddening aspect of all this is the lack of a well defined objective and transparent process to apply across the board in evaluating exemptions.

My feeling is that the MVSNA should have discussed their global approach to evaluating exemptions before having hearings for individual establishments. This process could have started internally in within their BoD, included an open forum for community feedback, then ultimately vetted by ANC2C and ANC6C to ensure a consistent paradigm with the entities they will ultimately be making their recommendations to. Instead their process has been very reactionary and flying by the seat of their pants.

It began at November MVSNA meeting with an endorsement of Modern Liquors, which lies outside their borders, based on only a brief discussion that lacked the context of the ABRA regulations. In December, Good Libations was approved by MVSNA membership 17-3 with far more discussion however there is still disagreement on what precedent was set other than the clause for a 1-year probation period and a popular vote. Listening into the discussion brands seemed to be implicitly part of the decision even if they are not explicitly part of the voluntary agreement. However when B&M Market, which sells cheaper beer, inevitably comes before MVSNA will brands still be powering peoples decisions? Many of us feel the membership will just find a different focal point to emphasize and justify an exemption. That’s not acceptable. These decisions need both consistent criteria and consistent weighting applied to that criteria.

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  1. 1

    fourthandeye says

    I have been hard on MVSNA in this. This legislation is sending us into unfamiliar territory and mistakes/miscalculations can happen. But the general approach to the unknown should be caution not urgency.

  2. 2

    RobA says

    It’s much easier to open the barn door to let the cows out than to try to get them back into the barn once the door is opened.

  3. 3

    si says

    You are right, many of us fly by the seat of our pants – for me I fully admit it. I do the best I can and I hope my neighbors do the same. I hate that this issue has been a source of such conflict and I hope we can all work thru it. thanks for posting the recap.