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Mt. Pleasant’s Haydee’s Liquor Board Application for Nightclub License Argued at ABC Hearing

By Anthony L. Harvey

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

After 30 minutes of preliminary matters, DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) Chairman Charles Brodsky announced a three hour time limit for the May 26th protest hearing on the application of the popular, family-owned Haydee’s restaurant at the corner of Mt. Pleasant and Irving Streets to its restaurant/supper club license to that of a nightclub. (For background, see, “Highly Regarded Mt. Pleasant Supper Club Restaurant Request for Nightclub License Opposed,” InTowner, March 2010, page 1; available in Current & Back Issues Archive.)

One of the preliminary matters included the disqualification for failure to timely file party participant papers of attorney and Mt. Pleasant resident Denise Witkor, representing herself and at least five nearby neighbors as parties, in opposition to Haydee’s application.

Haydee’s, represented by attorney Robert Waldeck, called  three witnesses in support of its application for an unrestricted nightclub license. All three argued in favor on the basis of Haydee’s 20-year record of positive contributions to the commercial and cultural life of the Mt. Pleasant community and adjacent neighborhoods. Haydee, herself, urged the Board for freedom from the remaining restrictions on her establishment which limits hours of permitted live entertainment, dance floor size, and of the number of monthly community events. She also stated her fear that the 45 percent food sales requirement of her present license would not allow her restaurant to survive the current economic decline.

Board members expressed skepticism with her arguments, with one member pointedly asking her if a conversion from a restaurant to a tavern license might accomplish her objectives, to which responded that a tavern license, for example, would still require restrictions such as an entertainment endorsement with terms and conditions set by an ABC Board order.

Gregg Edwards, Mt. Pleasant ANC chairman, vigorously articulated the ANC’s unanimous support of Haydee’s nightclub application, echoing Attorney Waldeck’s account of Haydee’s exemplary track record and those of the many community organizations, business groups, and tenant associations that have joined in the ANC’s support.

The Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance (MPNA) was represented as the “party in opposition” to Haydee’s application by Sam Broeksmit, whose calm and balanced arguments seemed to resonate positively with Board members whose questions and comments appeared to be searching for some reasonable compromise between the desires of Haydee’s — agreed by all to be a very good neighbor — and the professed willingness of MPNA to agree to — in Broeksmit’s unchallenged estimate — of at least 95 percent of Haydee’s nightclub application concerns. MPNA is also seeking a legally binding agreement holding Haydee’s to its repeated assertions of intending no change to its fundamental operations, which are that of a highly successful restaurant/supper club operation which now simply seeks the freedom to add hours of live entertainment, a larger dance floor, and an increase in the number of community events.

Broeksmit also challenged the appropriateness of a nightclub license for any establishment on Mt. Pleasant Street, noting that it is designated by DC’s Office of Planning as a neighborhood-serving mixed residential/commercial corridor, one currently struggling to survive in an age of big-box retail centers. He further observed that the precedent of a nightclub license for Haydee’s is deeply disturbing to MPNA and to members of Historic Mt. Pleasant, and emphasized his contention that Haydee’s business objectives could be met within the parameters of a restaurant or tavern license. Haydee’s continued to strenuously disagree.

The entire protest hearing was marked by a consistently high level of civility maintained by both parties throughout the proceedings, in marked contrast to the harsh controversies in Mt. Pleasant over live entertainment and social dancing in Mt. Pleasant restaurants and taverns that occurred only two or three years ago. The ABC Board will now take under advisement Haydee’s application and the record of the protest hearing, including prior filings, and will announce its ruling and official order at a public meeting sometime in August, according to Martha Jenkins, the Board’s legal counsel.