It’s been more than half a year since community members launched their crusade against a proposed pawn shop on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Fern Street NW, which resulted in a minor overhaul of money lending regulations and granted ANCs “great weight” in deciding whether or not a pawn shop gets licensed.
Well, turns out that doesn’t count for much. Even after ANC 4B voted to oppose Famous Pawn’s application, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs decided last week to grant the license, dismissing the commission’s concerns about crime and lowered property values (as did a Superior Court judge, on November 22). In doing so, DCRA sends a message that as long as businesses dot their eyes and cross their tees, the mere fact that an ANC doesn’t want something in its neighborhood amounts to a hill of beans.
“I think of it as a really offensive Christmas present,” said Commissioner Sara Green, who spearheaded the opposition. “This is really an enormous slap in the face.”
In its letter, DCRA’s Business and Professional Licensing Administration wrote:
DCRA concludes that the applicant has demonstrated the financial responsibility, experience, character and general fitness as to command the confidence of the community and to warrant the belief that the business will be operated honestly, fairly, and efficiently….DCRA agrees that Famous Pawn did a poor job of communicating with the community and has failed to establish a trust bond with the ANC. However, it does not follow that Famous Pawn’s failure to communicate with the community reflects a lack of the requisite character such as to be unable to command the confidence of the community. DCRA concludes Famous Pawn’s failure to engage the community is not indicative of a character flaw. Rather, this failure was a communications and marketing error.
DCRA was very careful on this one—Famous Pawn, a national chain, could very well have sued if it found any toehold. Perhaps a smart decision by the agency, but it raises the question: Would a small business have had the kind of resources necessary to achieve the same result?