The Advisory Neighborhood Commission that oversees the city’s U Street, N.W. entertainment district on Thursday, Feb. 11, dropped its opposition to the gay bar Uproar’s license renewal and Uproar’s application to expand the occupancy of its roof deck after it reached a settlement agreement with the bar.
The agreement was reached during a four-hour virtual hearing by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which would have decided whether or not to approve the ANC’s request that it deny the renewal of Uproar’s liquor license had the agreement not been reached.
The agreement came less than a week after Uproar owner Tammy Truong posted a Facebook message saying the ANC was engaging in “intimidation” tactics since it first challenged her license in November 2019. She said she would be forced to close Uproar if the ABC Board ruled against her.
Gay seniors activist Ron Swanda, who said he’s a regular Uproar customer and a friend of Truong, said the ANC initially proposed a settlement that would have prohibited Uproar from featuring live music or to have DJs playing recorded music. Details of the settlement agreement reached at the ABC Board hearing couldn’t immediately be obtained.
The Feb. 11 agreement also came after three gay commissioners won election to ANC 1B in the November 2020 election and took office in January, joining incumbent gay commissioner Robb Hudson. Some observers have speculated that the new commissioners may have softened the ANC’s position on the Uproar license challenge.
One of the newly elected gay commissioners, Larry Handerhan, acted as the ANC’s representative at the Nov. 11 ABC Board hearing. He told the hearing his ANC would like to reach an agreement with Uproar rather than force it out of business.
“I want to start by saying, you know, 1B is incredibly supportive of businesses on the U Street corridor,” Handerhan said. “We’re really happy to have Uproar in our family. And as a gay man myself I think it’s really important to say there are not enough LGBT or queer spaces in the city,” he told the hearing. “And I’m thankful for Ms. Truong and her operation for providing that.”
Before the agreement was reached, Handerhan, under questioning by ABC Board Chairman Donovan Anderson, said the ANC would be willing to drop its protest against Uproar’s license renewal as a first step toward reaching an agreement. He said the intent of that protest was to persuade Uproar to enter into a settlement agreement rather than to force the bar to go out of business.
He said the ANC’s second protest against Uproar’s application for an increase in the occupancy limit for its third-floor roof deck space from 99 to 200 remained a sticking point for an agreement. According to Handerhan, the ANC and nearby residents were concerned that 200 people gathering on the outdoor roof deck could create excessive noise and disturb the neighborhood.
When Handerhan and Uproar’s attorney, Thomas Martin, indicated they were close to reaching an agreement, Anderson called a 30-minute recess of the hearing to give the two parties a chance to finalize the agreement.
When the hearing resumed, Martin described what he called the highlights of the agreement, but his voice was partially distorted in the YouTube live stream broadcast of the hearing and the details could not be heard. The Washington Blade has submitted a request for a copy of the agreement, which Martin said was drafted on someone’s laptop and circulated by email.
ABC Board Chair Anderson said the board would follow its standard procedure of having its attorney review the settlement agreement to make sure it meets legal requirements. He said the board would give its final approval of the agreement upon the completion of its legal review.