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The Issue: Pouya Yousefi has been trying to secure a liquor license for Level Lounge at 315 H St. NW since May. He is proposing a Middle Eastern inspired lounge that accommodates 300 and includes everything from late-night dancing to a hookah bar. But the community is grappling with how the lounge will fit into this largely residential neighborhood, and is locking horns over questions of capacity and noise. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C made a motion opposing the license this past summer—but has recently come up with a novel way to address neighbors’ concerns: They’ve hired a sound expert to assess the building and make recommendations before the ANC drafts an agreement. Is this a helpful gesture from the local ANC—or an effort to stomp on a business owner’s toes?
Testing, 1, 2, 3: Residents say they only want to protect the peace and quiet of their neighborhood: Miles Groves, a representative for the Downtown Neighborhood Association—most of the buildings neighboring the lounge are DNA members—told City Desk: “There are concerns with noise, early morning crowds, parking congestion, and other issues that accompany a dance club environment. We appreciate the ANC’s leadership in providing funding for the noise study. We hope [the recommendations] are adopted.” Other residents say that noise is only the tip of the iceberg: Cary Silverman, writing on the blog Mount Vern0n Triangle, says, “the neighborhood may not want a venue that is shuttered and provides little or no community benefit during the day, and causes headaches (literally) at night.”
Is This a Concert or a Business? When the idea of hiring a sound expert was first proposed in October, some commissioners expressed concern that the ANC was going too far: Commissioner Tom Hamilton told Capital Community News, “What is our role here? What are we actually doing here? I just find this absurd. I’m sorry.” According to the paper, Yousefi had also already contacted a sound engineer independently. He has stressed that he doesn’t envision the lounge as a “nightclub,” hoping instead it will be a long-term neighborhood fixture.
Next Step: Commissioner Charley Docter says there’s a negotiation session with Yousefi today, at which the ANC will present the findings of the sound expert. Groves hopes they will emerge with a voluntary agreement in place. “As long as the crowds and noise are contained within the establishment, everyone wins,” he says. “This process gives us all a voice in our neighborhood.” The hearing with the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration is set for Dec. 2.
Photo by Chris Gold, Creative Commons Attribution License