July 21, 2017 at 10:00 pm EST | by Mark Lee
Planned #DachaOn14th needs your licensing support
Dacha Beer Garden, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Dacha)

The bustling commercial junction at 14th and S streets in northwest D.C., two blocks south of U Street in the amenity-laden MidCity area, is blighted by a barren vacant lot and streetscape eyesore.

It’s a jarringly unattractive and incongruous corner spot, one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels along the mid-town thoroughfare and currently used for commercial parking. Nestled amid an array of retail stores and plethora of restaurant, bar and nightlife establishments, this void is a paved pockmark.

That empty space has been an ugly sight for as long as anyone can recall and, due to zoning rules limiting development options, is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Unlikely, that is, unless the city approves a planned $3 million investment by a local small business to transform the location with a brand-new building.

Dacha Beer Garden proprietors and gay business partners Dmitri Chekaldin and Ilya Alter hope to contribute a community enterprise offering an innovative neighborhood socializing option. They have operated the popular outdoor seasonal Dacha Beer Garden in the adjacent Shaw neighborhood, at 7th and Q streets, for the past four years.

It would be one of less than a handful of new-construction dedicated-use full-service D.C. restaurant-bar structures built from the ground up during the past five decades.

The business duo’s plan for an additional venue with both indoor and outdoor space enabling year-round operation has been laboriously winding its way through the city’s convoluted liquor-licensing system for months.

Alter and Chekaldin face opposition from both an ad-hoc license protest by a small “group of five or more” and two long-notorious inter-related “civic associations” with few members and even less community support.

These objectors are pressuring the three area Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to recommend that the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board either block the business from opening or restrict operating hours and reduce guest capacity to an unsustainable level in an effort to halt the project. Because the property is located near the boundaries of two adjacent ANCs, a total of three commissions are allowed to “weigh-in” with the Board.

These so-called “citizens” groups, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and its spawn-like cohort bred from among DCCA members forming an adjunct Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance, reflexively oppose new hospitality establishments. Their shameful legacy includes waging an infamous eight-year battle against gay-owned culinary standout Hank’s Oyster Bar along Dupont’s 17th Street commercial strip.

Five years ago, both of these symbiotic naysayer gaggles pushed to impose a total moratorium on all new liquor licenses throughout the entire MidCity area of Logan, Shaw, 14th and U streets and all nearby business zones.

Overwhelming numbers of area residents, however, fought back and successfully derailed the attempted prohibition. Had the community not done so, none of the new bars and restaurants that have sprung up since 2012 would have been allowed to open.

The majority of area residents need to make their voices heard again.

On Wednesday, Dacha unveiled a revised building design and site layout that fully resolves the claimed worries of opponents regarding potential external noise. The number of outdoor seats, now within a small courtyard surrounded on three sides by both an L-shaped new building and adjacent existing business, has been reduced to only one-third of occupancy.

All other seating and service is inside an expanded interior with a 20-ft. building elevation serving as a sound barrier along an adjacent alley and the property-facing side street. There will be no DJs, live music or other performances – only low-volume background music. Dacha is also working with sound mitigation specialists to continue a perfect record of compliance with D.C. noise regulations.

Dacha this week launched an online community effort asking local supporters to “send a message” urging the ANCs and D.C. Council representatives Jack Evans and Brianne Nadeau to endorse ABC licensing for the new venue.

To support #DachaOn14th, go online to “sign and send” a message here.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

  • Popeye

    “The bustling commercial junction at 14th and S streets in northwest D.C., two blocks south of U Street in the amenity-laden MidCity area, is blighted by a barren vacant lot and streetscape eyesore.”

    Oh please. It’s a parking lot. Hardly “blighted.”

    And concerns about Dacha are not remotely the same as the attempted moratorium on new bars in the neighborhood. False equivalence.

    “Dacha is also working with sound mitigation specialists to continue a perfect record of compliance with D.C. noise regulations.”

    Wow. Are you on the PR team? That is some serious (and false) spin. Their record in Shaw is FAR from perfect.

    • lnm3921

      Most if not all of Mark Lee’s articles are serious and false spin to push his agenda!

  • Mark Lee

    [In reply to “Popeye”]

    FACT CHECK: The Dacha outdoor beer garden in Shaw has never been cited for a D.C. Noise Control Act violation during inspections by MPD, DCRA, or ABRA.

    I stand by the observation made in my column as true and correct.

    – Mark Lee, Washington Blade contributing columnist

    • Dodo_District

      This report sounds very one sided. No input or comments from the next door neighbors Protesting this establishment? Dig a little deeper it’s not about blocking bars or alcohol. Try speaking to Jack Evans too.

    • Popeye

      I’m OK with Dacha existing on 7th or coming to 14th as long as noise and security issues raised by neighbors are actually addressed but you’re about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News with your cherry-picking of facts.

      “Never been cited” for noise isn’t the same as never had a complaint. There have been many, and they HAVE been cited numerous times and fined for being over capacity – which is directly related to noise volume but easier to prove.

      https://www.borderstan.com/2015/11/06/dacha-agrees-to-42-5k-fine-in-battle-over-beer-gardens-capacity/

      https://www.borderstan.com/2015/07/08/shaw-anc-votes-to-protest-dacha-expansion/

    • tassojunior

      Technically true. Not even sure if there are noise violations for human voice.
      But….Dacha holds the DC record for adjudicated violations in one two-year license. 21 confirmed infractions in their last 2-year license, including serving to minors and over-capacity. One serious enough for a $42,000 fine.

      • Popeye

        Waiting for your reply, Mark Lee. Tell us more about Dacha’s perfect record.

  • Chris

    Generally, their proposal seems reasonable from the looks of it with the outdoor area on 14th and the walls/roof closer to the residential areas. I do want to take issue with some of your characterization, however. Equating the DCCA and SDCA overstepping boundaries of the past (+ the Wallach Place crew) isn’t exactly apples to apples. And, a lot of that overstepping resulted in revisions to the ABRA protest law and eventual rolling back of or decisions not to move forward with moratoriums.

    Additionally, I think it is dishonesty by omission when you note that they have never been cited for a noise violation. You know as well as anyone, they got in some serious trouble with ABRA about over capacity and other issues and had to serve a 21 day license suspension and pay a $42,500 fine (rare and stiff by ABRA standards). They were most certainly NOT the greatest neighbors in Shaw, so I’ve have no problem with DC citizens ensuring some accountability from high profit businesses with shady pasts. In diverse neighborhoods with residences and businesses, it is a fact of life that we have to have some compromises in the city.

    https://www.popville.com/2015/11/dachas-liquor-license-suspended-through-the-29th-expect-a-few-more/

  • tassojunior

    What all these immature uber-libertarians miss is that often these projects turn out 100 times better because of “opposition”.

    This new plan in response to the opposition is terrific compared to the original plan of a bunch of tables for beer drinking by 600 people on a vacant lot.

  • kjnisamutt

    Yes, yet another noisy bar is the most serious issue facing the LGBTQ community in DC at this time. Why is the Blade offering a platform for this obvious corporate shill? This is the kind of stuff that belongs in a business rag, not the local voice for LGBTQ issues.

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