Bar Charley application for extension of interior hours

The new Bar Charley at 1825 18th Street NW (at the former site of Cajun Experience and Inti Peruvian Restaurant) has applied for a “substantial change” to extend the allowable interior hours for its existing liquor license from 11pm/12am (current) to 2am/3am (proposed).  Below is a Q & A to help understand the application and the process.

This item will be on the ANC’s November 13th public meeting agenda.  Residents should contact me (will.stephens@dupontcircleanc.net) and 2B01 Commissioner Mike Feldstein (mike.feldstein@dupontcircleanc.net) with comments and feedback, and also feel free to comment below.

What kind of license does Bar Charley currently have?

Bar Charley currently has a “CR” (restaurant) license, which was transferred from the prior owners of Cajun Experience.

What does a CR license mean?

A CR license means that the establishment is a restaurant with both full food service and full liquor service (beer, wine, spirits).  A CR licensee must earn a certain percentage of income from food (as opposed to drink).  In addition, a CR establishment must keep the kitchen open until (at most) 2 hours before closing.  The food requirements for a CR license are more stringent than other types of  licenses, such as “CT” (tavern) or “CN” (nightclub) licenses.

What is Bar Charley’s request?

Bar Charley is requesting to extend its interior sales/service/operation hours by 3 hours.  Currently, Bar Charley stops all sales/service/operation at 11:00pm Sunday through Thursday, and by 12:00am Friday and Saturday.  The proposal is to have these hours extended to 2:00am Sunday-Thursday and 3:00am Friday-Saturday.

What is a “substantial change”?

“Substantial change” is a term of art in the D.C. liquor law.  Examples of changes that usually count as “substantial” are changes in hours, the addition of a sidewalk cafe or summer garden, or the addition of entertainment, among others.

Would the exterior hours of the summer garden change?

No, there would be no change to the exterior hours.  The summer garden in the back of the establishment has hours ending at 11:00pm Sunday through Thursday and 12:00am Friday and Saturday.  These are the same hours that Inti and Cajun Experience also had for this summer garden.  This is also consistent with the ANC’s preferred times for outdoor space next to residents.  The policy of the ANC for many years has been to ask any establishment with outdoor space near to residents to close by 11pm/12am.

Would the type of license change?

No.  Bar Charley would remain a CR (restaurant) licensee, subject to all the requirements of a CR license.

Do any of the nearby establishments have 2am/3am interior hours in their licenses? 

Yes.  In that block, both Mum Mum (the former Straits of Malaya and Zabb Asian Diner) and Larry’s Lounge already have 2am/3am interior hours in their licenses.  Notably, Larry’s Lounge is a CT (tavern) license, meaning it has less food requirement.  Lauriol Plaza has license hours limited to 1am/2am (interior) and 11pm/12am (exterior).

Is this some kind of “special permission”? 

No.  The legal limit in D.C. for the sales/service/operation of liquor for any restaurant, bar, tavern, or nightclub is 2am/3am hours.  Most of licenses in the neighborhood — including restaurants — have 2am/3am hours written in their licenses.  And most applicants for new licenses that come before the ANC ask for the maximum hours.

Why does Bar Charley only have 11am/12am hours now?

The owners of Cajun Experience chose not to apply for later hours, and Bar Charley received that existing license from Cajun Experience.

Would having 2am/3am hours in the license mean the establishment will be open the maximum hours every night? 

No.  It would mean the establishment would have permission to be open until the legal limit hours.  Many establishments in the neighborhood with such permission close earlier — either on a regular basis or on an ad hoc basis if they are not busy on a given night.

This is a new owner/operator in the neighborhood.  Do they have a track record we can review?

Yes.  The ANC always tries to look at the owner’s/operator’s history as a matter of due diligence for any application.  Here, the owners of Bar Charley also own El Chucho.  The Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Agency (ABRA) shared the agency’s investigative history of El Chucho, which is attached here: El-Chucho-Investigative-History(11-1-13).  The only activity is a warning that ABRA issued to El Chucho for a late quarterly statement in 2012.  We also have the investigative history for Bar Charley itself, but because Bar Charley is so new, there is nothing in that history: Bar-Charley-Investigative-History(11-1-13).

What does the ANC usually do with an application like this?

For any given application, the ANC can vote to support or protest the application, or to take no action at all.  The ANC does not normally protest a request for an extension of interior hours only.  In addition, when establishments voluntarily abide by the ANC’s public space guidelines (11pm/12am exterior hours near residents), we generally vote to support such an application — as a means of reinforcing our guidelines and providing an incentive for establishments to follow those hours without having to protest or negotiate.

Would this change of hours set a precedent for this commercial strip?

No.  Except for Lauriol Plaza, the other establishments on this block already have 2am/3am hours in their licenses.

If this goes forward, would Lauriol Plaza get extended hours?

No.  To change its hours, Lauriol Plaza would also have to apply for them.  Because Lauriol Plaza has a “Voluntary Agreement” listing its hours, a request to extend hours could only be made during license renewal (every three years, which for Lauriol Plaza would be earliest in 2016).  The request would be subject to all the same public notice, placarding, and protest procedures as any other liquor license application.  In addition, Lauriol Plaza is easily distinguished from Bar Charley and other establishments by its sheer size, multiple levels, parking lots, and operation as a “destination” restaurant for suburbanites and out-of-towners.

What has the reaction been from neighbors so far?

I have received many requests to support the application and many requests to protest the application, in roughly equal number.  That said, I don’t view my decision-making on the ANC as just being the mouthpiece of a majority, but as requiring my best judgment based on available information, experience, fairness, and institutional integrity.

What is your proposed action for the ANC?

Based on all the information above,  I plan to propose that the ANC support the application.  Here is a summary of the grounds for my proposed action:

  1. The applicant will not be changing exterior hours;
  2. The applicant is abiding voluntarily by the ANC’s public space guidelines for exterior hours;
  3. The applicant is a CR restaurant license serving real lunch and dinner food;
  4. The owner/operator does not have a negative ABRA history, either here or at El Chucho;
  5. The interior of Bar Charley is below grade, which helps muffle noise;
  6. I see no persuasive rationale for treating Bar Charley differently than Mum Mum (a much larger, above-ground, multi-level space), which already has these hours — and indeed I think it would be unfair to treat Bar Charley more strictly;
  7. I see no risk that this change will alter the general make-up of this strip, and in particular it will not affect Lauriol Plaza’s hours; and
  8. The ANC generally votes to support applications like this in other parts of the neighborhood that are right next door to residents — such as on 17th Street, U Street, and 14th Street — and I see no persuasive rationale to treat Bar Charley more strictly.

What is the timeline for this application, and how can I participate?

Any petition to protest is due to ABRA by November 25th.  Thereafter, the “Roll Call” hearing to formally lodge protestants will be on December 9th.  Eligible protestants include the ANC, the DCCA, abutting property owners, and any group of 5 or more residents.  Please communicate with me and Mike Feldstein (contact info above) with questions or concerns.  The ANC meeting on this item will be on Wednesday, November 13th from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at the Brookings Institution, 1775 Mass Ave NW.

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9 thoughts on “Bar Charley application for extension of interior hours

  1. That similar #s of residents supported and opposed is a blatant lie Will.

    Not mentioned in your criteria (fairness, institutional integrity, etc), is WHAT’S BEST FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD. That should be the driving force of the decision. And I can say with confidence that the residents of the neighborhood do not want this, as per the nunerous signatures collected in opposition. Whether other restaurants have the same license should not be the driving factor of this decision. Let’s do what’s right for the neighborhood.

    • I can only tell you what emails and verbal comments I’ve received to date, which amounts to a wash in my view, though I have not tallied them like a straw poll.

      But the “what’s best for the neighborhood” question is a fair point because I wasn’t explicit. I start from the premise that having an interesting place serving good food and drink in that space is a benefit to the neighborhood. Then, given the other items I mentioned that I believe do not detract from that in a significant way, the conclusion I draw at this point is that what’s best for the neighborhood is to have this go forward.

  2. I have lived in the neighborhood for 12 years and I have talked to many people that do not oppose Bar Charley’s request. Your characterization of Will as a lier is an ad hominem attack.

    The hours they want to keep is consistent with the other establishments in the area. I read a flyer that mentioned the new hours would create an atmosphere similar to Adams Morgan late night. That is far from the reality of what will happen. The bar seating is limited and the clientele is all local.

    Opposition for the sake of opposition without a cogent argument against the plan is a waste of everyones time. Based on the current make up of the establishments in the area there is no basis or evidence to prove that there will be a change in the climate or quality of life in the neighborhood. I would encourage you to examine the motivation for your opposition. If this was Lauriol Plaza making the request I would understand. Your opposition wreaks of self important NIMBY chest thumping.

    Bar Charley has enhanced the options for dining in the area. It is a reputable establishment. Why limit them based on unsubstantiated groundless fear.

    • Hi Tom,

      Actually the hours Bar Charley is proposing is not consistent with the other restaurants in the area. Lauriol Plaza has 11 p.m. / 12:00 a.m. week day/week night closing and Mum Mum has 10:30 p.m. / 11:00 p.m. (hence not practicing the permissible hours that its license currently allows). The neighborhood is affected by not the hours on paper but the hours that the establishment practices. And Bar Charley has every intention to actually practice these late alcohol serving hours (as per their own account), if they get the permit. Therefore they will be the FIRST restaurant in the vicinity to actually serve that late.

  3. Will,

    Thank you for taking the time to provide us with some information and your position.

    I respectfully disagree with your decision to support an ANC extension of Bar Charley’s hours. I would also like to request clarification of the following point. Included in your grounds for support, you wrote that Mum Mum already has the late hours that Bar Charley has requested. This was surprising news to me! Currently, Mum Mum advertises its hours on its website as the following:
    Monday11:30 AM — 10:30 PM
    Tuesday11:30 AM — 10:30 PM
    Wednesday11:30 AM — 10:30 PM
    Thursday11:30 AM — 10:30 PM
    Friday11:30 AM — 11:00 PM
    Saturday11:30 AM — 11:00 PM
    Sunday11:30 AM — 10:30 PM

    Is Mum Mum extending its hours until 3AM just as Bar Charley has requested? If so, could you please provide information about how we can protest such a substantial change? In my humble opinion, both Mum Mum and Bar Charley should comply with the same hours that the majority of restaurants on my block comply with and not serve alcohol later than 11:00PM. I do not see any reason to give these two relatively new restaurants such preferential treatment.

    Regards,
    Jordan

    • Hi Jordan — No, Mum Mum isn’t requesting a change. Mum Mum already has a *license* that allows it to stay open until 2am and 3am. Good question for clarification purposes.

  4. I have lived in the neighborhood for 12 years and I have talked to many people that do not oppose Bar Charley’s request. Your characterization of Will as a liar is an ad hominem attack.

    The hours they want to keep is consistent with the other establishments in the area. I read a flyer that mentioned the new hours would create an atmosphere similar to Adams Morgan late night. That is far from the reality of what will happen. The bar seating is limited and the clientele is all local.

    Opposition for the sake of opposition without a cogent argument against the plan is a waste of everyones time. Based on the current make up of the establishments in the area there is no basis or evidence to prove that there will be a change in the climate or quality of life in the neighborhood. I would encourage you to examine the motivation for your opposition. If this was Lauriol Plaza making the request I would understand. Your opposition wreaks of self important NIMBY chest thumping.

    Bar Charley has enhanced the options for dining in the area. It is a reputable establishment. Why limit them based on unsubstantiated groundless fear.

  5. Pingback: ANC 2B Votes to Protest Bar Charley’s Request for Later Operating Hours | Barred in DC

  6. Hi Will – thanks for the analysis, even though I find some parts of it a bit misleading (like there is no mention of other restaurants in the area not practicing the current permissible hours).

    I also find it hard to believe that the neighborhood can be divided in its support vs. oppose position for this license and would be interested in a more precise count of that. I live with my husband, right across from Bar Charley in a 4-unit condominium, all occupied by professionals with young children (or on the way like us). Given the improvements in the neighborhood schools, latest trend to migrate to the city, and our own observations, we believe we represent a growing portion of Bar Charley’s neighbors. With young children and jobs getting us out the door at 8:00 a.m. every morning, we are not the “drink at 2:00 a.m. on a week day” type of crowd, nor do we want that crowd to loiter at our doorsteps every night. With the new license, I am afraid Bar Charley will attract the leftover drunk patrons of Lauriol Plaza rather than the locals that they claim to be targeting.

    I would have loved to state this in person at the meeting yesterday. Curiously enough there was not enough time for me to speak, after ample amount of time was dedicated to statements from all three owners of Bar Charley and yourself, all in defense of the license application.

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