By BILLY SIMPSON
Last Wednesday night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C voted out its final recommendations to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board with respect to the Adams Morgan moratorium on new alcohol licenses. With our voting concluded, I’m now ready to respond to Mark Lee’s opinion piece in the Blade from Nov. 22.
I don’t generally follow Lee’s writing. But this is the second time in just a couple of months that his columns have been forwarded to me by friends and members of the Adams Morgan community. And it is the second time that I have been completely underwhelmed by the quality of Lee’s thought.
In his piece, Lee criticized me for proposing a “convoluted litany of restrictions that would likely dissuade potential business interests from opening.” But this assessment fundamentally misunderstands the democratic process and ignores the clearly articulated objective of ANC1C’s moratorium-related resolutions.
With respect to the democratic process, I considered it to be my duty as chair of the Commission to bring to the table as many of the ideas that fellow commissioners had offered up as possible. Our commissioners then spent the bulk of our meeting on Wednesday working through those proposals, removing some of them and refining others. The process was so successful that we were able to achieve the agreement of six of seven commissioners on most of our moratorium-related resolutions, and unanimity on the rest (one of our commissioners was unable to attend the meetings).
With respect to the clarity of our objective, it is simply the case that the residents of Adams Morgan overwhelmingly do not want to live in a nightclub district. This is not the view of some “vocal minority.” Our Commission sought input from the community over several months, including at an ABC and Public Safety Committee meeting on Sept. 11, at a special forum on Oct. 9, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Commission on Nov. 6, and by email. All in all, we received hundreds of public comments.
Accordingly, ANC1C’s resolutions call on the ABC Board to allow additional restaurant licenses in Adams Morgan, provided that the establishments operate as bona fide restaurants. There’s nothing confusing about that, unless one pretends not to understand the difference between dining on the one hand, and clubbing on the other hand.
And our residents are supported in their desires by the law that governs all planning for the District of Columbia. In Mid-City Policy 2.4.2, the District’s Comprehensive Plan instructs as follows:
“Enhance the local-serving, multi-cultural character of the 18th Street/Columbia Road business district. Encourage small businesses that meet the needs of local residents, rather than convenience stores, large-scale commercial uses, and concentrations of liquor-licensed establishments. Consistent with this policy, the conversion of restaurants to night clubs or taverns and the expansion of existing night clubs or taverns into adjacent buildings should be discouraged.”
One of Lee’s mistakes was to judge our product before it was complete. But the deficiencies in his perspectives seem to go far beyond that. In his weekly email on Dec. 5, Lee circulated a graphic describing Adams Morgan (and a few other D.C. neighborhoods) with a reference to the Prohibition Era of the 1920s. Really? Adams Morgan, which has in the range of 75 alcohol-serving restaurants and taverns within a half-mile stretch? It just highlights the fatuousness of Lee’s opinions.
If Lee would like to move to Adams Morgan, my fellow commissioners and I would be happy to begin to care at all about what he thinks our neighborhood should look like. Until then, we will do the job that we have sworn to do: Represent the residents of Adams Morgan who voted us into office.
Billy Simpson is chair of ANC1C. The full text of ANC1C’s moratorium-related resolutions can be found at anc1c.org.