The Issue: Haydee’s, a Salvadoran restaurant at 3102 Mt. Pleasant Street, wants to get a nightclub license from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. The idea of a new nightclub has divided the Mount Pleasant forum and revived a neighborhood tradition: intra-neighbor factionalism.

Up With Nightclubs, Down With Signs: Mario Alas, who co-owns the restaurant with Haydee Vanegas, says he needs the new license because less than 45 percent of Haydee’s receipts come from dine-in food sales, a requirement under ABRA regulations (PDF). Failing to meet that threshold jeopardizes Haydee’s restaurant license. Alas hopes nightclub status—nightclubs have no minimum food requirement—will also help his restaurant escape what he calls the onerous conditions of voluntary agreements with two neighborhood groups, Hear Mount Pleasant and the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance. For instance: He’s required to post a sign telling customers to be considerate of the restaurant’s neighbors. As red is to bulls, the signs are to Haydee’s patrons. “They get mad when they see those signs in the bathroom and they just tear them off,” Alas said. He would support a new voluntary agreement, but only with the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC 1D.

Hear Mount Pleasant, one of the groups that holds a voluntary agreement with Haydee’s, supports the application for a nightclub license. “Nightclub is a charged word,” said Hear Mount Pleasant member and ANC 1D commissioner Phil Lepanto. “In a lot of ways, that’s the primary thing people are reacting to.” The group will agree to end its voluntary agreement with Haydee’s in favor of a blanket voluntary agreement that would apply uniformly to all Mount Pleasant restaurants at some point in the future, according to Lepanto.

He voted Tuesday for a resolution supporting Haydee’s nightclub license, and it passed unanimously.

Red Light, No Green Light: Not so fast, says ANC 1D commissioner Jack McKay. McKay supports Haydee’s new license, but only if it’s accompanied by a voluntary agreement to protect the neighborhood. “If they’re going to have these restrictions anyway, why not put them in writing?” says McKay, who nevertheless voted for the resolution supporting the license. McKay is also concerned that owners Alas and Venagas will sell the restaurant—and the nightclub license— to an outside buyer, and who knows what would happen then. “They could decide to go to El Salvador for the rest of their lives,” he says.

Local resident Ilana Harrus opposes the license altogether, fearing it will ruin the community for her 2-year-old daughter. “I would prefer her not to grow up in a ‘red light’ district,” she wrote in an e-mail to City Desk.

What’s Next: The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board will consider Haydee’s license in March—McKay expects the joint will face stiff opposition. Alas says no one should worry they’ll sell the restaurant, even though he’d like to. “Show me the person who wants to buy because I don’t see it,” he says.

Photo by CarrieA, Creative Commons Attribution License