Josh Levin’s article on so-called voluntary agreements (“Raising the Bar,” 5/2) does an excellent job of highlighting their capriciousness. What must also be recognized is how these “agreements” are being used as instruments of suppression to alter the character of entire neighborhoods and deprive all of us of amenities and activities that are being banned outright through these “agreements.”
Mount Pleasant is a case in point. There, a small, self-styled “citizens group” called the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance has seized control through these “voluntary agreements” of the neighborhood’s only commercial zone, which serves at least 12,000 Mount Pleasant residents and many more from adjacent blocks of Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan. They have imposed their will on all of the licensed restaurants and taverns, and hence upon all citizens who might patronize these establishments.
This system must be reformed. There must be substantive limits placed on “voluntary agreements” so that they cannot be used willy-nilly as vehicles for suppression of musical, cultural, and First Amendment-protected activities. Reform legislation, such as the citizen-supported Live Music and Entertainment Protection Act, is imperative. In Mount Pleasant and elsewhere, we must undo what has been done, and ensure that it does not happen any more.