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[Big Bear Café owner Stuart Davenport took a more active role in this week’s meeting. Please excuse the shaky footage, I’m still getting used to this video thing.]
Last week, the debate over Big Bear Café’s application for a restaurant liquor license in Bloomingdale exploded into the open, with heated discussion at a meeting of ANC 5C that ultimately resulted in the vote being deferred until this week’s monthly meeting.
Both supporters and opponents showed up in force again last night at Catholic University, anticipating a decision. But amid more debate and confusion over Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration procedure, action was pushed off again, pending further discussion of a voluntary agreement between the Café and immediate neighbors.
Over the last week, Café owner and ANC commissioner Stuart Davenport met with nearby residents and hammered out a draft voluntary agreement, which would confine the restaurant’s hours and activities (and, Davenport hopes, avert a protest down the line). But more community members at the meeting expressed a desire to weigh in, and so a timeframe of two weeks was set to arrive at a resolution, before the ANC votes on June 15th. In addition, the Café will need to obtain a zoning exception in order to operate as a restaurant in an R-4 residential area.
The decision to postpone a vote came largely as a result of clarification from ABRA community resource officer Cynthia Simms, who said it would be “premature” to vote on a stipulated license before the Café’s license had been accepted by the ABC Board. A 45-day stipulated license, which allows an establishment to serve liquor during the application period, can only be granted with the ANC’s approval—but can only go into effect after the would-be restaurant has posted the red notice placards indicating that its application is undergoing review.
To some ANCs, this process is old hat—6B, which contains H Street NE, grants stipulated licenses regularly. But in an area that still has no alcohol-serving restaurants, ABRA procedure proved mystifying.
“Are we setting a precedent here?” asked one audience member. “Has this ever been done before?”
“It’s not anything new,” Simms assured him. “It’s been going on for years. It’s actually the law.”
In the mean time, Commissioner Barrie Daneker told the audience, Ward 5 ANCs are coming together to craft common guidelines for how they’ll deal with the flood of new license applications they anticipate with all the new development coming to the area. “In the next five years, they will be coming like gangbusters, like a freight train,” Daneker said.
There was some consternation in the audience over the continued postponement. The biggest applause line of the evening came from Commissioner Gigi Ransom, who questioned those who would protest the Big Bear so vehemently without applying similar scrutiny to problem liquor stores.
“The extent of the protest that I’m hearing here for a restaurant that is known is your community, the person lives in the community, the community basically supports it—I have not seen where y’all have been protesting that huge congregation that’s on the corner of Florida and North Capitol,” Ransom said. “You protest one business, and not look at another one that’s really having an adverse impact on your community right now.”