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The Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA) is known for many things. Founded in 1918, the neighborhood group “has taken an active role,” according to its Web site, “in historic preservation and zoning, community beautification, support for local schools, business district revitalization…”

That litany, however, underplays the association’s expertise in cracking down on Adams Morgan’s alfresco-drinking problem.

For years, the Kalorama group has meddled in the outdoor-seating plans of liquor-licensed businesses in the Northwest neighborhood, including L’Enfant Cafe, Crush, and the sprawling second-story 18th Street NW venue now known as the dance club Chloe.

“The problem is,” according to the KCA’s April 2005 newsletter, “that sidewalk cafes frequently stay open late, adversely affecting nearby residents.”

The notorious outdoor-spoiler coalition and its chief anti-barfly, Executive Vice President Denis James, are presently losing sleep over what they view as inadequate regulation of sidewalk cafes. Currently, there are no citywide limits on the legal hours of alfresco service. Sure, restaurants have to stop serving alcohol both indoors and outdoors no later than 2:30 a.m. on weekends. But forks can clang ’round the clock at a Parisian-style brasserie right next to you. Accordingly, the KCA is lobbying the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Public Space Committee to establish a new set of curbs on these joints.

That request comes at an opportune time: As summer approaches, increasing numbers of thirsty D.C. denizens are forgoing the stuffy, smoky, jampacked confines of their typical hangouts and instead flocking to the…smoky, jampacked places with plastic furniture from CVS.

And proprietors of local watering holes are looking to capitalize on consumers’ solstitial trend, with many unveiling new outdoor-themed amenities.

For NIMBY groups such as the KCA, the seasonal expansions present the perfect opportunity to complain: After all, outdoor seating can get noisy (see Adams Mill Bar and Grill after any kickball game). It often encroaches upon public space (see any Adams Morgan restaurant). It’s architecturally bankrupt (see Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse). And it’s usually riddled with all sorts of potential regulatory infractions (see the minutes of any advisory neighborhood commission [ANC] meeting).

Here’s at look at just some of the things that your open-air drinking pursuits are doing these days to piss off the neighbors.


Chi-Cha Lounge,

1624 U St. NW

Outdoor seating capacity:



Smokin’. Fire up an arguileh full of licorice-flavored tobacco or nurse a $20 pitcher of “infamous” sangria roja while listening to the sounds of passing police cruisers and fire trucks.

NIMBY issue:

Mandatory midnight

furniture removal

This past September, police responding to one resident’s complaint about noise at the location noticed that Chi-Cha’s tables and chairs had been left out on the sidewalk after 12 a.m.—a violation of Chi-Cha’s legally binding 2002 agreement with its local ANC.

Owner Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld reportedly fired the manager, who, he says, didn’t follow instructions on proper patio cleanup procedures—and also didn’t happen to mention that the boys in blue had dropped by. But even that drastic head-rolling wasn’t enough to satisfy the fine-print-sticklers on the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

For his patio-furniture curfew transgression, Fraga-Rosenfeld was slapped with a form of punishment far more painful than any mere fine or suspended license: He got a stern talking-to from ABC Chair Charles Burger.

“You broke the law,” Burger told him bluntly, denouncing the past-deadline patio cleanup as a “troubling” sign, indicative of “poor management.” “‘My manager never told me.’…What kind of excuse is that?


Club Heaven & Hell,

2327 18th St. NW

Outdoor seating capacity:



Cramped, caged

NIMBY issue:

Surprise construction

in public space

This spring, owner Mehari Woldemariam’s club saw several exterior improvements, including a fresh purple paint job and a new black fence enclosing a portion of the sidewalk out front.

Similar railings suddenly sprang up on either side of the club, at neighboring nightspots Tom Tom and Columbia Station, followed by a proliferation of plastic tables and chairs. None of the venues had posted the standard “NOTICE Sidewalk Cafe” warning prior to installation. So the KCA in April fired off an e-mail complaint about the cafes’ unexpected emergence to DDOT. The lack of notice, though, doesn’t mean the clubs didn’t have permission. DDOT records show that Heaven & Hell was approved to offer sidewalk service in 2002. Columbia Station got the nod in 1999. And Tom Tom? Back in 1992, when it was known as Blue Angel Cafe.

The question is whether the clubs’ new construction complies with their old permits. DDOT spokesperson Bill Rice says an investigation is ongoing.



1610 U St. NW

Outdoor seating capacity:

57 (proposed)


Smug. From proposed rooftop deck, average boozehounds would be able to look down on patrons of a Results gym, Starbucks, and Local 16.

NIMBY issue:

Vociferous cowpokes

Rooftop accommodations are certainly nothing out of the ordinary for that part of town: Right next door to Stetsons, Local 16 has a similar, if not larger, roof deck. But equality has never quite worked out on U Street.

Last month, the Dupont Circle ANC unanimously voted to protest Stetsons’ roof dreams. Chair Darren Bowie told the Dupont Current that the panel was worried that an upper deck would create “unreasonable noise for nearby residents.” One nearby condo dweller, in particular, complained to the Current that “the establishment caters to men in their 20s, many of whom are boisterous and loud.”

Until the two sides find some common ground on the rooftop, Stetsons’ expansion remains on hold.



1942 11th St. NW

Outdoor seating capacity:

21 (proposed)


Voyeuristic. Stunning ground-level vistas of a Metrobus stop, an Industrial Bank branch, and jazzier seating outside Bohemian Caverns

NIMBY issue:

Late hours, double-digit seating, and an unfavorable reputation

Owner Mesfin Tessema’s original plan to operate a sidewalk cafe that would stay open until 3 a.m. on weekends didn’t exactly sit well with the Cardozo-Shaw ANC. The panel, which overwhelmingly rejected Tessema’s proposal, also took issue with the number of seats, which commissioner Rosemary Akinmboni called “troubling,” according to minutes of the panel’s May 5 meeting.

ANC Chair Dee Hunter added that U-Turn had “an ongoing problem with noise” and reportedly had “been operating after hours”—not to mention that “there was a shooting tied to the establishment less than two years ago,” according to the minutes.

Despite the ANC’s unanimous opposition to the proposal, however, DDOT’s Public Space Committee went ahead and approved Tessema’s plan on one condition: that the sidewalk service shut down a bit earlier than Tessema originally intended—no later than midnight on weekends.


Pharmacy Bar,

2337 18th St. NW

Outdoor seating capacity:

6 (proposed)


Laid-back, just like the interior, with the same soothing-indie-rock jukebox selection that Pharmacy is known for—only muffled

NIMBY issue:

Removal of innovative

foot-traffic detour

At a meeting last week, owner Kristaps Kreslin’s plan to fence off an elevated slab of sidewalk at the foot of Pharmacy’s steps garnered the approval of every member of the Adams Morgan ANC present, except one: Chair Alan Roth.

Roth has a personal interest in the future of this particular piece of pavement, which he says better serves as “a little outlet valve” for passers-by looking for a quick detour around clogged or slow-moving foot traffic: “When I’m walking up 18th Street and it’s crowded and there’s no place to go, you know, I’ll hop up on that thing and walk around the crowd.”

—Chris Shott

Got something for Show & Tell? Send tips to show@washcp.com. Or call (202) 332-2100, x 455.

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustration by Gus D’Angelo.