Restaurant manager Dito Sevilla, who’s gay, lost his bid for a seat on the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission Wednesday night to civic activist Abigail Nichols by a vote of 34 to 12.
The two candidates competed in a special election to fill a vacant seat in ANC Single Member District 2B05, which includes part of the 17th Street, N.W., commercial strip where three gay bars and a gay restaurant are located.
Although ANC districts include about 2,000 residents, the turnout Wednesday night of just 46 voters was considered especially low, even for special ANC elections, which are known for attracting far fewer voters than regularly scheduled elections.
The election was held at ANC 2B’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting at the Brookings Institution headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue.
Sevilla, the manager at Floriana Restaurant on 17th Street and a nearby resident of 17th Street, said he would work hard on behalf of the residents while pushing for policies that allow businesses, including what he described as resident-friendly restaurants and bars, to thrive as part of a vibrant neighborhood.
Nichols said one of her concerns is the negative impact on residents in some parts of the district by noise and other problems associated with bars and nightclubs. She pointed to her role as founder of the Alcohol Sanity Coalition D.C., which advocates for more restrictions on businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
Nightlife advocates, both gay and straight, expressed concern that Nichols would push for overly restrictive policies and actions that would hurt nightlife businesses, including restaurants and bars. She told the Blade she would advocate for a “balanced” approach in addressing issues of concern to residents and businesses.
Sevilla, said he, too, favors a balanced approach but expressed concern that Nichols would likely push for policies that would have a negative impact on nightlife businesses at a time when several storefront spaces on 17th Street are vacant due to businesses that have closed or moved to other locations.
One source familiar with ANC 2B, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said that while Nichols is clearly viewed by insiders as an ally of a shrinking faction that opposes nightlife businesses, she will be outnumbered by a majority of ANC 2B members who won election last November who are supportive of nightlife businesses.
“So while Nichols marks a big swing from Victor Wexler [the former ANC 2B05 commissioner who resigned], the overall makeup of ANC 2B is more hospitable to business and nightlife,” the source said.