March 23, 2012

All Souls in the news

Channel 7 ran a short story on the fracas over the All Souls tavern license we reported earlier.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board hearing on Wednesday, but we heard secondhand that it was quite a show.

A commenter from a previous post pointed us to an article sympathetic to the opposition.

The article notes that the ABC Board does not typically grant alcohol licenses within 400 feet of a school unless there is already another alcohol license within 400 feet of the school. In this case, All Souls would qualify since Boston Wine & Spirits (1905 9th Street) is within 400 feet of the school.

We looked up on Google Earth the distance between Boston Wine & Spirits and Cleveland Elementary School and marked a 400-foot yellow line in the map below. We were able to spot-check the relative accuracy of the program by measuring the right-of-way distances in Google Earth and comparing them to the numbers in the Baist Real Estate Atlas of the area. By a more generous measure, where we measure from the school building instead of the school’s property lot (outlined in red) to 9th Street in front of and thus beyond Boston Wine & Spirits, it appears that Boston Wine & Spirits is within the 400 feet.

Here is another interesting tidbit from the article:

The parent group who is behind the protest of the bar conducted a survey. According to the survey, 45% of Cleveland Elementary School teachers would be reluctant to attend evening activities at the school and 33% of parents would remove their children from the school should the bar open up across the street…

It seems the frequent, blatant, and public drug-dealing and urination a block away have not deterred these hardy souls from attending Cleveland, but the thought of a 5 pm happy hour across the street will.

Categories: Good Goverment, Local Businesses
Tags: , , ,

14 Replies

  1. Hm? Your picture suggests that the DC zoning law in question will measure the distance between these two establishments in a straight line (as the crow flies) rather via the distance measured if you had to walk or drive. You may be correct but you may also be incorrect. It’s a good thing we’re not relying on bloggers who don’t always know the law to determine these things.

    I know some of the parents at that school. In this instance you are definitely correct. They are a hardy bunch. They are not at all happy about the drug dealers around the block and if they win this battle that may very well be their next fight. For the time being, I think they feel that the city doesn’t really care about them or their kids. The city not only does very little about the drug dealers and other illegal activity that may be happening around their school but is also willing to put a bar which is state-sanctioned adult-only activity right across the street from where their kids spend most of their day. This blog suggests that their neighbors to the south in Ledroit Park don’t care either. But because they are a hardy bunch, as you put it, they will fight the battles they can win and will voice their opinions and their concerns about the community that they call their home.

    Speaking for myself and not the parents, I don’t understand this commitment to ignoring a relatively basic zoning ordinance. The zoning law that prohibits bars and liquor stores from being within 400 feet of a school is in place for good reason. Jurisdictions all over the country have these laws. No doubt they had them in your home town and they were probably enforced there. Yet at 8th and T Streets NW in the District of Columbia we should be ignoring this law because there’s a liquor store that’s already technically within 400 feet of the school. Could it be because the kids at the school are black and brown and we don’t care as much about black and brown kids as we do about bar owners who have a shot of making more money or their relatively wealthy and privileged customers who don’t want to have to walk a few blocks to find a drinking establishment that’s more than 400 feet walking distance from one of DCPS’s very few award-winning, multi-lingual schools. You would be a more responsible neighbor if you were fighting against the illegal activity around the school instead of pushing to allow a bar to be established across the street.

    Josh - March 23, 2012 @ 12:05 pm
  2. Mr. Fidler, I really like your blog, and I follow you on Twitter, where you indicated that the comment above was race-baiting. I’m writing to say that I think that you’re being too dismissive of the comment, much of which I agree with.

    I’m definitely what’s considered a “gentrifier,” a married white guy with a professional job. Like the rest of my tribe, I like new bars and restaurants, and I don’t think that they’re the public menace they’re portrayed to be in these liquor licensing debates that have occurred all over the District in recent years.

    I’ve taken an interest in this debate because I have children, and while we’re not in boundary for Cleveland Elementary, we hope to apply for out of boundary spots at the school when we’re eligible. It’s a gem of a school, and very close to our home.

    I don’t like the fact that a bar will be located basically right outside the school’s playground where I hope my kids will be playing.

    While it appears that your point that the Boston Liquor Store is within 400 feet of the school is accurate, it isn’t nearly as close as the proposed new bar and doesn’t have nearly the potential impact. The liquor store is approximately 400 feet away. The proposed bar is directly across the street from the school. Boston Liquor Store’s storefront is located on 9th Street, facing away from the school. The front of the new bar would directly face the playground of the school.

    I think what bothered the commenter above was the last paragraph of your post, in which you say essentially that there’s been a lot of negative stuff happening around the Howard Theater for years, the school seems to be doing just fine, so the bar isn’t a problem. It’s definitely true that the area has been a haven for all sorts of illicit activity. Hopefully, with the Howard’s rebirth, that’s a thing of the past, and I don’t think it ought to influence the decision of whether to allow a bar across the street from the playground.

    Jake - March 23, 2012 @ 2:09 pm
  3. Thank you Jake for your thoughtful response to my post. I don’t tweet so I can’t respond to the race baiting question. I also don’t have time to really participate in these discussions consistently as some folks seem to do. But I am wondering if Mr. Fidler would have accused me of race baiting if I had also identified myself as a white male? Is there meant to be an understanding between white men that race never has anything to do with anything?

    Josh - March 23, 2012 @ 3:01 pm
  4. Josh:

    I’m not really sure what you mean by the last two sentences of your comment, so I’m not really able to address them directly, and I don’t know what Mr. Fidler was thinking.

    I mentioned my own race above to suggest that this issue isn’t just another newcomer/gentrifier/white person vs. old timer/long time resident/black person conflict, of which there have been many in recent memory in the neighborhood. There’s also an element of younger person without kids vs. older person with kids conflict to it as well.

    Jake - March 23, 2012 @ 3:27 pm
  5. The last two sentences were really meant for Mr. Fidler.

    Josh - March 23, 2012 @ 3:55 pm
  6. I’m very confused.
    In the first comment, Josh says that combatting the drug dealers on the corner may well be the parents’ next fight if they win the battle against All Souls. So drug dealers selling crack, marijuana, heroin or whatever other illegal substance may be available takes a back seat to a legitimate business that wants to improve a run-down stretch of the block. Really?

    All Souls has (from my reading on other blogs) agreed to remain closed until 5 PM. Not 2 PM, when children are ostensibly in school. Not 3 PM, when they might be walking home from school. Not 4 PM, when after school programs might be letting out. So it seems that the chance of children being affected by an open bar across the street is limited at best. Won’t say it wouldn’t happen, but it seems unlikely.

    I have no doubt the city wants to see the 8th and T area cleaned up, but with limited resources comes the need to prioritize. The ownership of All Souls wants to help this intersection improve with the rest of the Howard Theatre district, and in return, is going to send tax money to the city! What a deal for Washington! All kidding aside, while this may not be the ideal sight for a bar, a bar should be considered the preferable neighbor to a bunch of drug dealers and vagrants.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, btw. I live on the other side of U, but will be happy to wander down to All Souls for a beer (after school hours) in solidarity with someone who wants to make his corner of the city a better place.

    Chuck - March 24, 2012 @ 10:21 am
  7. What is your suggestion for fighting the drug dealers and vagrants? Going to the city to stop a bar from getting it’s license, which might bring even more unwanted illegal activity to the corner, is a straight forward and legitimate way the parents can help keep the environment around the school from getting worse. As you yourself point out, with limited resources comes the need to prioritize. Why does that argument work for the city but not for the parents?

    Please, go to the school any sunny late afternoon at around say 5, 5:30 even 6:00 pm before the sun goes down and let us know if all the kids have vacated the playground. You might also take note that in fact the number of drug dealers and vagrants within sight of the playground may be being overstated.

    No dog in the fight, huh? Don’t live in the neighborhood, don’t have any kids? You and the owner of All Souls knows what the neighborhood needs far better than the parents of the students at Cleveland Elementary or the neighbors who live right next door?

    Okay, let’s take that as a given. You and David Batista know best. Let’s go with that. Bars should be allowed across the street from elementary schools because the risks would be “minimal.” If some kid gets hurt by a drunk driver or an adult with alcohol-induced, impaired judgment or one of the 31 registered sex offenders in the area who has found a new spot to legitimately hang out and watch kids and does something inappropriate, it will have all been worth it because the bar is actually going to make things sooo much better in that block. The vagrants will go away because _________ (Can you fill in that blank for me. I’m not as smart as you about these things.) The drug dealers will go away because ________________. (Again, not as sharp. Help me out here. No wait, here’s an idea. When the city starts allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open up, we should put one right in the playground at Cleveland Elementary. That way the drug dealers around the corner will go away because the competition will be sanctioned by the state and have the protection of the police.)

    You win Mr. Fidler. From now on, I’ll just sit back and listen to folks like you explain to parents like me how you know what’s best for us, our kids, the neighborhoods we want to raise them in, etc. Thank you for your wise and just council on this matter.

    Josh - March 24, 2012 @ 12:04 pm
  8. Please identify the illegal activity that has taken place as a result of places like Queen of Sheba or Darnell’s Place getting their license. Or Nellie’s. Or Boston Wine.

    How to get rid of the vagrants, drug dealers, etc? Get off your butts and go do something about it. Band together as a group and film them. Do you really think they’re going to attack a decent sized group? No. They’ll go somewhere else. Make your presence known. Clean up the school grounds. Demand police presence. Don’t just bitch and do nothing.

    All Souls is trying to do something. Mr. Batista is etrying to take a blight on the neighborhood (a vacant building that does nothing to help anyone) and turn it into a contributing part of the neighborhood. If you don’t like it becoming a bar or restaurant, what do you suggest it become? Don’t just let it sit empty. Then it does no good to anyone except the rats and vagrants.

    Chuck - March 24, 2012 @ 2:39 pm
  9. I agree. No bar should be allowed to open up across the street from an elentary school. That is just common sense. We hope to send our 3 yr old to Cleveland, and she will likely be in aftercare because we both work. When you are a parent, maybe you will understand. We are trying to stay in the neighborhood rather than flee to Upper NW or Bethesda. We’ve been here nearly a decade. Enough to appreciate the artisinal piizza pubs, dog parks and thai restaurants. But we have a family now and the safety of our schools and playgrounds is most important. We often take our daughter to the school playgrounds in the neighborhood until 7 pm. I dont care if its hipsters drinking PBR ironically or winos drinking malt liquor. It is an adult activity that is something we would rather not subject our toddler to.

    Ak - March 24, 2012 @ 3:22 pm
  10. Can you prove that no additional illegal activity has been attracted to areas surrounding Queen of Sheba and the other places you mentioned as a result of their getting their licenses? Really?

    Have you heard of the Orange Hat Patrol? I don’t think they’re so active right now, but they were pretty active during the crack epidemic of the 80s, particularly in and around the Shaw neighborhood. Probably before you arrived here. No doubt, those residents helped make your neighborhood a desirable place for you to move into. I’m sorry that you’re thanking them by trying to get the city to ignore basic zoning ordinances like no bars or liquor stores within 400 feet of an elementary school, because I’m pretty certain not a one of them would agree with you on this.

    You can suggest all you want that folks like me who might object to a bar across the street from an elementary school are just sitting on their butts while the neighborhood goes to ruin, but history suggests otherwise. In fact, one might come to the conclusion that packing a hearing room in protest of said bar is not exactly sitting on one’s butt.

    On the other hand, that’s not exactly organizing a team of parents and other community members who may have jobs to go to, kids to feed, cloth, etc., to form a vigilante group who, armed only with digital cameras and perhaps harsh language, can do what a paid police force has not been able to do and stop the vagrancy and drug deals in the neighborhood. You are perfectly justified in saying we bitch and do nothing. Where as of course the sainted David Batista is actually doing something for that corner, for the school, for the community at large. No interest in money he, no! A bar, yet another bar is the only possible answer. Not a hardware store, not a coffee shop, not a restaurant (wouldn’t really fit in that small space anyway), no! Only a bar will clean up that block.

    Are all of those other drinking establishments that you named within walking distance of Cleveland Elementary? I’m wondering why you and the other silent majority who you refer to don’t just walk to them instead of pushing to have yet another bar established against the wishes of a not so silent presumed minority. You might even get a group of your friends together, bring your digital cameras, do a bit of a patrol of the neighborhood, take pictures of the vagrants and drug dealers around the school and then walk over to Nellie’s to have a drink.

    Josh - March 24, 2012 @ 3:58 pm
  11. That last comment was for Chuck by the way, not AK, who I of course agree with 100%

    Josh - March 24, 2012 @ 4:18 pm
  12. I’m not trying to canonize Mr. Batista. I am, however, being pushed more and more to his side by the angry vitriol that I’ve been reading regarding his attempt to open a new small business in the District. Of course he has interest in making money. People don’t spend thousands of dollars to open a business for altruistic reasons.

    He has already given up having the patio. The only thing any children at the schoolyard may see are people entering into an establishment. There will be little evidence of them drinking, unless the bartender doesn’t do his job and allows overconsumption.

    Take a breath and calm down. Rabid, sarcastic responses do not become you.

    Chuck - March 24, 2012 @ 5:02 pm
  13. My sarcasm is hardly rabid. I’m kicking your butt with it. I love those dismissive comments, “take a breath and calm down.” That’s a beauty. Oh Chuck, you’re so full of good advice. You ought to take some of it yourself.

    Josh - March 24, 2012 @ 5:33 pm
  14. Log Cabin Liquors is directly to the East of the playground (not shown in picture above). I wouldn’t be surprised if its even closer to the school than Boston Wine.

    I have children who might attend Cleveland and the proposed bar doesn’t bother me at all. The entrance to the school is on 8th St NW and to the North is the playground, but there is a substantial fence all around it. If the proposed bar had outdoor seating we’d probably just walk on the South side of T st — that is if we even needed to walk that direction at the time of night that the bar was open. And, if the crowd outside had any sort of “rowdy” factor at all, which also may very likely never be an issue. I’ve been by the evening drinking crowd at BBC and it is about as mellow as a retirement home. So, I have no problem taking the kids by there.

    Stephanie - March 24, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

Leave a comment