Attention ABC License Holders and Community Members in ANC 2F!

The following are excerpts from a notice issued by the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) earlier today. View the full release here.

  • More than half of all District ABC licenses (including 65 renewals in ANC 2F) are due for renewal in the first half of 2016.
  • Alcoholic beverage licenses are required to be renewed every three years with all licenses of the same type expiring on the same date.
  • All alcohol-licensed restaurants, hotels, theaters, museums, trains, boats, clubs and caterers in the District must submit renewal paperwork by March 31.
  • In an effort to make the renewal process more convenient for licensees, ABRA will be providing additional office hours on Saturdays during the month of March for renewals to be completed.
  • License renewal paperwork can be filed any time before March 31 during the following hours: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, 12, 19 and 26.
  • Renewals may only be done in person at ABRA’s office, which is located at: 2000 14th St., NW, 4th Floor, Suite 400 South, Washington DC 20009.
  • The next sets of licenses requiring renewal will be all taverns and nightclubs, which will be due by Friday, Sept. 30.
  • Licensees that have questions can contact ABRA by emailing or calling (202) 442-4423.

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FOIA Lawsuit Against D.C. Over ANC 2F Actions

Today I issued the following press release:


 

Contact: Matt Raymond, 202-744-1921, matt@mattraymond.com

Frivolous Lawsuit Against D.C., Logan Circle’s ANC a Product of Misguided Crusade Against Immigrant Small Businessman

 Please note: Any opinions expressed below are those of Chairman Raymond only, except insofar as formal positions and votes of ANC 2F are recounted.

(Washington, D.C.)—A lawsuit filed yesterday in Superior Court (James Kane v. DC, 14-3386 [422992]) against the District of Columbia regarding actions of Logan Circle’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F is rife with demonstrable falsehoods and could have far-reaching negative impacts on the ANC and an upstanding local businessman.

The complaint (http://wp.me/a22M8Q-x4) centers on the ANC’s efforts to comply with a Freedom of Information request filed by James Kane, now the plaintiff, who sought communications about the ANC’s dealings regarding Logan Circle’s Ghana Café between April 1, 2013, and April 23, 2014.  An initial search revealed at least 500 emails plus several other documents directly related to Ghana Café.

However, the FOIA request went far beyond the one business, asking for every communication over a period of more than one year related to broad terms such as the city’s ABRA liquor license enforcement agency, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, such commonly used terms in liquor license matters as “settlement agreement” or “voluntary agreement,” and even the exceptionally broad term “resolution.”

When ANC 2F Chairman Matt Raymond began the broader search, he found that there were literally thousands of potentially responsive documents (the bulk of which being emails). He communicated this fact to Kane’s attorney and suggested narrowing the search to Ghana Café, citing the unreasonable amount of time the search and document production would entail, plus the fact that ANC commissioners are volunteer, unpaid officials, most of whom have day jobs. D.C. law requires only eight hours of personnel time related to document reformatting, which would be exceeded by an order of magnitude in accounting for thousands of documents.

ABRA and the ABC Board are the D.C. agencies that constitute the lion’s share of ANC activities, and Ghana Café is but one of numerous liquor licensees the ANC dealt with in 2013 when residential development and dining establishments boomed in Logan Circle. ANC 2F has a total annual budget of $18,770 and is able to employ only part-time staff to assist with routine matters such as preparing agendas and taking minutes.

Neither Kane nor his attorney responded to Raymond’s good-faith offer to comply, instead taking the matter directly to court.

“To call this a fishing expedition would be an understatement,” Raymond said. “It’s more akin to Captain Ahab’s brash pursuit of Moby Dick. The extreme nature of the FOIA request and this lawsuit speak to the plaintiff’s intemperate efforts to bring harm to Ghana Café, as well as to greatly hinder the ability of ANC 2F to represent the needs of Logan Circle residents.”

One year ago, Ghana Café owner Tony Opare, a Ghanaian immigrant, approached the ANC in hopes of easing restrictions on his liquor license that put him at a competitive disadvantage with nearby businesses. The ANC reached out to Kane and surrounding neighbors who along with ANC 2F were also a party to Ghana Café’s settlement agreement, which places additional conditions on a licensee than normal regulations. When Opare’s application for live music on weekends was denied by the ABC Board, giving neighbors little incentive to continue negotiations, they became nonresponsive to the ANC.

In March 2014, frustrated by the bad-faith negotiations and sympathetic to Opare’s plight, the ANC voted to withdraw from the existing settlement agreement and enter into a new one with Ghana Café, placing it on more equal footing with competitors.

Neighbors had valid concerns about a number of health violations, but Opare rectified them quickly and then had a record on par with other establishments in the neighborhood. The neighbors also alleged numerous violations of Ghana Café’s license and settlement agreement. However, ABRA notes only a single minor infraction in Ghana Café’s history, related to paperwork.

The ANC in recent years has been responsive to the concerns of Kane and his neighbors—e.g., successfully opposing a 2011 Ghana Café application for outdoor seating. In addition, the ANC voted last year to oppose live music before later switching course and voting this year to ease restrictions after deeming the continued opposition to Opare unreasonable.

“Mr. Opare has been held hostage for a year by a small group of surrounding residents, to the detriment of his business and patrons,” Raymond said. “The vehemence with which they have pursued their crusade is disproportionate, if not discriminatory, compared to their dealings with similarly situated restaurants. Ghana Café is not the bad actor those few neighbors would have us believe.

“A likely outcome of their intransigence would be to force the closure of a business owned by a man who was living the American Dream.”

Kane’s lawsuit makes several demonstrably false claims about ANC 2F’s handling of the FOIA request:

 Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, ANC 2F did not submit a request to [the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, or OCTO] to search ANC 2F’s government-hosted email accounts for emails responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact: At the request of ANC 2F, D.C.’s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions made a formal request on May 27 that OCTO do a search of government-hosted emails, which was listed as “in progress” when the lawsuit was filed—a fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, none of the non-government hosted email accounts used by ANC 2F Commissioners was searched for emails responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact: As previously mentioned, all emails and documents potentially responsive to the Ghana Café issue were searched and segregated, numbering more than 500. Raymond also commenced a good-faith search of the other overly broad terms in the FOIA request. While an exact number was not determined, it without question would have been in the thousands, constituting an undue and unlawful burden on the ANC. Again, this is a fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

 Ironically, the plaintiff’s filing, in quoting Raymond’s emails, contradicts its own claim.

 Allegation: “On information and belief, as of May 29, 2014, ANC 2F did not search for nonemail documents that are responsive to Mr. Kane’s FOIA request.”

 Fact:  Reviews conducted by ANC 2F included non-email documents, all of which were being segregated and held as potentially responsive—another fact the plaintiff could have found out with a simple call or email to ANC 2F.

 The complaint’s contention in “Count One” that the District therefore violated the FOIA law for its supposed failures to search is also false.

The filing further complains that ANC 2F failed to produce a “Vaughn index,” which essentially is a detailed, item-by-item spreadsheet listing all potentially responsive communications and determinations whether each could be considered privileged under the law and court precedent. Producing such an index for the request as submitted would have required untold hours of work by a small army of administrative personnel, easily exhausting ANC 2F’s $18,770 budget.

If the plaintiff’s hope was that the ANC would choose the path of least resistance and turn over, wholesale, thousands of documents without proper review and due diligence regarding potentially privileged information, such as that which would result in invasions of privacy or damage a business’s competitive position, it then would have exposed the District to additional liability for the illegal release of such information. In addition, “capricious and arbitrary” responses to FOIA requests potentially expose government officials to criminal liability.

While the law permits the filing of FOIA-related lawsuits, it also offers an administrative appeals process via the Office of the Mayor, which would have lasted no more than 10 days. If an appellant disagreed with the outcome, he still would have the option to file a civil claim. In bypassing a speedy appeal, the plaintiff could drag out the matter until at least Sept. 12, the date the court set for an initial conference regarding the lawsuit.

“If Mr. Kane and his attorney were truly interested in the information they are seeking, they would have pursued the expedited administrative appeals process rather than delaying the matter for months and incurring substantial attorney’s fees, for which D.C. taxpayers would be on the hook if the District lost in court,” Raymond said.

“Moreover, simple and cordial discussions might have resolved the situation instead of tying up the courts.

“Logan Circle residents and all D.C. citizens should be outraged at this treatment of a well-meaning small businessmen, this flagrant abuse of the legal process, and the potential damage inflicted on hard-working, volunteer representatives attempting to do the work of the people.”

 # # #

 ANC 2F represents part or all of several D.C. neighborhoods including Logan Circle, Thomas Circle, Old City, Blagden Alley/Naylor Court, Franklin Square, and parts of Shaw and Downtown. ANC 2F comprises eight Single Member Districts and therefore has eight commissioners. Its website is located at http://anc2f.org/.

 

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Draft Agendas for Feb 19 CDC, CPSC, & APC Meetings

NOTE: Below are the draft agendas for three upcoming ANC 2F meetings: the Community Development Committee (CDC), the Crime and Public Safety Committee (CPSC), and the ABRA Policy Committee (APC) meetings, all of which will take place on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 7:00pm. It’s like the lunar eclipse of ANC meetings!

The CDC and CPSC meetings will take place at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW). The APC meeting will take place at N Street Village (1333 N St, NW – 2nd floor multipurpose room).

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE (CDC) MEETING AGENDA*
February 19, 2014, 7:00pm
Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW)

Call to order at 7:00pm.

  • Approval of meeting agenda  (7:00)
  • Approval of January 22, 2014 Meeting Minutes  (7:00)

OLD BUSINESS

  • 1313-17 14th St, NW development dialogue with neighbors  (7:05) moved to March CDC agenda
  • Marriott Hotel project (9th & L St, NW) HPRB presentation  (7:05) moved to March CDC agenda

NEW BUSINESS

  • HRPB application for rooftop addition at 1516 Kingman Pl, NW  (7:05)
  • Design and development presentation for 1225 10th St, NW   (7:25)

OPEN FORUM

—————–
CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE (CPSC) MEETING AGENDA*
February 19, 2014, 7:00pm
Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle, NW)
Call to order at 7:00pm.
DISCUSSION TOPICS
  • Prostitution
  • Drug dealing and violent crime
  • MPD staff for our PSA, including whether we have the appropriate mix of bike, foot, and car patrols
  • CPSC plans for the year, including long term projects
OPEN FORUM

 

—————–
ABRA POLICY COMMITTEE (APC) MEETING AGENDA*
February 19, 2014, 7:00pm
N Street Village (1333 N St, NW – 2nd Floor Multipurpose Room)
Call to order at 7:00pm.
OLD BUSINESS
  • Finalize standards and templates for settlement agreements (SAs)
NEW BUSINESS
[None]
OPEN FORUM

 

 

*NOTICE: The above agendas provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contain matters that are expected to come before the Committees.  They are, however, subject to formal adoption by the Committees at the meetings, which may result in additions or deletions to the drafts. Individuals who may have official business before the Committees or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meetings. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information.

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Alcohol Policy Committee Meeting Agenda for November 20, 2013

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F
ALCOHOL POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING AGENDA
Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 7:00 PM
N Street Village (1333 N Street, NW) – 2nd floor Multipurpose Room

  • Review and Approval of Agenda

REQUESTS TO MODIFY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

[none]

LICENSE RENEWALS

  • 1314 9th St, NW (A n D)
  • 1410 14th St, NW (Black Whiskey)
  • 1401 K St, NW #B (Lima Restaurant and Lounge)
  • 1420 K St, NW (Lotus)
  • 1010 Vermont Ave, NW (Josephine)

NEW LICENSE REQUESTS

            [none]

OPEN FORUM

 

NOTICE:  This agenda provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the Committee.  It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the Committee at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft. Individuals who may have official business before the Committee or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information.

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ANC 2F APC Meeting Agenda for October 23, 2013

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F
ALCOHOL POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING AGENDA
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 7:00 PM
The Residences at Thomas Circle (Meeting Room)*
1330 Massachusetts Ave, NW
*Please note this meeting is taking place at the Residences at Thomas Circle, NOT at the Washington Plaza hotel.

  • Meeting Agenda
  • Approval of Agenda
REQUEST TO TERMINATE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
  • 920 14th St, NW (The Park)
LICENSE RENEWALS

  • 1435 P St, NW (Number Nine)
  • 1610 14th St, NW (Ghibellina)
  • 1415 P St, NW (Vegas Lounge)
  • 1318 19th St, NW (Vita Restaurant, formerly Mood Lounge)
  • 1301 K St, NW (Capitale)

LICENSE MODIFICATION REQUEST

  • 1336 14th St, NW (Ghana Cafe)

NEW LICENSE REQUEST

  • 1333 14th St, NW Glass House Coffee

OPEN FORUM

 

NOTICE:  This agenda provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the Committee.  It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the Committee at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft. Individuals who may have official business before the Committee or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information.

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ANC2F APC Meeting Agenda for July 18, 2013

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F

ALCOHOL POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING

Thursday, July 18, 2013, 7:00 PM

The Washington Plaza Hotel

# 10 Thomas Circle, NW

  1. Meeting Agenda
  1. Approval of Agenda
  1. 1610 14th Street, Ghibellina, ABRA #088785-Request for Support for Sidewalk Café 12 seats
  1.  APC Website Update Discussion

 

NOTICE:  The agenda attached to this notice of meeting is provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the meeting.  It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the ANC at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft.   Individuals who may have official business before the ANC or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information

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ANC2F APC Meeting Agenda for Thursday, June 20, 2013

ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2F

ALCOHOL POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING

Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7:00 PM

The Washington Plaza Hotel

# 10 Thomas Circle, NW

  1. Meeting Agenda
  2. Approval of Agenda
  3. 1443 P Street, NW, Commissary – Amendment of the SA for earlier hours weekdays & weekends for Liquor Sales
  4.  1336 14th Street, NW, Ghana Cafe – Request for Support for Entertainment Endorsement

NOTICE:  The agenda attached to this notice of meeting is provided by ANC 2F in advance of its public meetings contains matters that are expected to come before the meeting.  It is, however, subject to formal adoption by the ANC at the meeting, which may result in additions or deletions to the draft.   Individuals who may have official business before the ANC or persons with interests in specific matters are advised to contact the Executive Director or a Commissioner in advance of the meeting. See www.ANC2F.org for contact information

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Text of Resolution Regarding Proposed Liquor Moratorium

Here is the text of a resolution I have shared with my 2F colleagues and which I will ask them to discuss and vote on at our meeting tonight, which begins at 7 p.m.

(UPDATE: The ANC passed the resolution unanimously, 7-0.)

April 3, 2013
A Resolution by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F
Regarding the Proposed Liquor License Moratorium in the
Historic 14th and U Street Corridor

WHEREAS, The Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance on December 10, 2012, petitioned the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board of the District of Columbia (“ABC Board”) seeking to establish a moratorium on the issuance of new retailer-class liquor licensees; and

WHEREAS, The proposed moratorium would encompass a zone extending within the boundaries of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F (“ANC 2F”); and

WHEREAS, The written advice of ANC 2F, as an affected ANC, must be accorded Great Weight by the ABC Board, pursuant to section 13(d)(3) of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions Act of 1975; and

WHEREAS, The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has scheduled a hearing on the petition on May 22, 2013, and has solicited formal comments from affected ANCs; and

WHEREAS, ANC 2F has discussed and received public comments on the moratorium at meetings of its Crime and Public Safety Committee and ABRA Policy Committee, as well as three meetings of the full commission and a joint listening session held March 20, 2013, with ANCs 1B and 2B; and

WHEREAS, Community sentiment is strongly opposed to the moratorium, as evidenced by comments at the above-referenced meetings, as well as contacts from individual constituents, and an online petition with 1,196 signatures as of April 3, 2013; and

WHEREAS, ANC 2F welcomes the presence of liquor-licensed establishments, having endorsed the findings of the ARTS Overlay Review Committee, which stated that “restaurants and bars are an important ingredient in having a vibrant ARTS District: they contribute foot traffic to the arts and retail uses, and play an important role in achieving a vibrant and safe nighttime street environment”; and

WHEREAS, Serious concerns have been raised about the efficacy and advisability of moratorium zones elsewhere in the District of Columbia and whether they contribute the intended net positive effect to community values such as retail diversity and public safety; and

WHEREAS, The petition advances a number of dubious claims about issues such as crime rates and enforcement of existing zoning regulations under the Uptown ARTS Overlay; and

WHEREAS, Current tools exist, and other creative solutions should be pursued, to address the negative impacts raised in the petition; and

WHEREAS, Moratoriums are market-distorting mechanisms that unfairly advantage incumbent businesses; transform liquor licenses into commodities that may cost tens of thousands of dollars, pricing local entrepreneurs out of the market; depress the tax base; and discourage non-liquor amenities by making neighborhoods less desirable places overall for businesses to locate; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That ANC 2F advise the ABC Board to deny the pending petition to create a retail liquor license moratorium zone in the Historic 14th and U Street Corridor in its entirety, and to decline to move forward with any rule-making process to effectuate such a moratorium zone; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That ANC 2F Chairman Matt Raymond be directed to write a report elaborating upon the basis for this resolution that will serve as formal written advice to the ABC Board, to be voted upon at the May 2013 meeting of ANC 2F; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That such report include an acknowledgement of potential impacts that might accompany the growth of liquor licenses in our area and a focus on positive steps the community should take, short of a moratorium, to address those impacts; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That ANC 2F recommit itself to working with District agencies, the City Council, the Metropolitan Police Department, residents, the business community, neighboring ANCs and other stakeholders to improve the enforcement of all applicable laws and regulations governing liquor licensees and potential community impacts, and to seek changes in such laws and regulations, where deemed advisable.

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