ANC 6E’s 3-2 vote last week to protest Dacha Beer Garden’s expansion of its liquor license and capacity from 126 to 600 before the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration was unfortunate. On Tuesday evening, the ANC chair, Alex Padro, took off his hat as director of Shaw Main Streets, which had done much to foster gay and minority businesses in the neighborhood, and donned both his ANC and new Central Shaw Neighborhood Association (CNSA) hats.
The CNSA leaders consists of a half-dozen or so well-organized households, including gay, straight, African American and even a Russian American family living near Dacha. Its ostensible mission is to check economic development, and specifically Dacha, on Seventh Street. They resort to hyperbolic, hostile and disingenuous concerns about noise, disruption of their children’s sleep, patrons’ public urination, parking congestion and Dacha’s supposed cold shoulder toward them.
The vehement mistrust of those who challenge Dacha’s expansion and, for some, its very existence, is both misdirected and incomprehensible. It seems a vindictive response to that business’s astounding success as a popular, safe, friendly and inclusive venue. Dacha is a founding pillar of rejuvenation in a once vibrant entertainment and commercial corridor.
By contrast, Dacha has collected more than 1,000 Change.com supporters, devoted patrons and neighbors within and outside the CSNA’s four blocks, and broad support from Blade readers.
Dacha’s owners may have tried too hard to cooperate with and solicit support from its neighbors of every hue, age and orientation as the city erected bureaucratic obstacles before them. Unlike other nearby entertainment venues, Dacha’s owners voluntarily agreed to the association to limit hours of operation, not play wall-permeating music, address noise issues, invite dialogue, and assure inclusive hiring.
When Alter and Chekaldin launched plans to build on their success by expanding their venue capacity to include a build back of the adjacent historic building as an indoor sit-down dining venue with dining veranda over the current canopy, the CSNA, with apparent city complicity, turned on them. They cite allegations of over-capacity infractions, complain about noise and rats, and nixed the design of the new building. Dacha asked the city for a 200-person capacity, but received a 126-person capacity intended originally only for seated patrons. Dacha takes nightly noise readings on both sides of the sound walls and in the alley – and decibel levels come in lower than D.C. standards. They are working currently with sound engineers to build soundproofing into the expansion plans.
Rats remain a neighborhood-wide plague. Dacha has closed dumpsters and engaged an exterminator.
Because of CSNA’s intransigence, concerned neighbors have quietly met with the Dacha team to negotiate an end to the cold war. Endorse President Reagan’s “Doveryai, no proveryai” (“Trust, but verify”).
Ray Milefsky has been a Shaw resident since 1986.