All Souls vs Cleveland Elementary: Report From ABRA Protest Hearing

Cleveland Elementary Stakeholders at ABRA Protest Hearing

I was hoping this would be my last post on this subject but alas probably not. So where do things stand? As I reported previously, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration had a hearing last night (Wednesday, March 21, 2012) to consider the position of community members who oppose the establishment of a bar across the street from Cleveland Elementary school. The hearing room was packed with parents, children, teachers and community members opposed to the granting of the liquor license. ABC Channel 7 has continued to cover this issue. Their report is below.

The video gives you a sense of how many folks were in the room, includes soundbites that are both for and against the granting of a liquor license to All Souls but unfortunately the local tv news format doesn’t allow time for details. One of the Cleveland Elementary School parents who testified in protest of the granting of the license, gave me a few details. According to her, the hearing started at 4:00 PM and didn’t end until 9:00 PM. Within those five hours the lawyers hired by the bar’s owner David Batista argued that they should be granted a liquor license because the area is blighted, the building in question is abandoned, attracts unwanted activity and that increased foot traffic near the school would make the area safer. Therefore, a legitimate business, like a bar, should be a welcome addition. Community members opposed to the license took the opposite position pointing out that adults with the impaired judgment brought on by alcohol do not constitute the kind of foot traffic that would enhance the safety of the area. Concerns were raised that the increased traffic brought on by the kind of upscale (i.e. wealthy) customers likely to frequent the bar might in fact increase opportunity crimes like theft and muggings. My favorite argument by far, which apparently caused at least one community member to break out in laughter, was that a bar across the street from an elementary school could in fact be used to educate the children (Kindergarten through 5th grade) about appropriate alcohol use. Who knew?! A bar as a learning tool! But of course. After all, today’s toddlers are tomorrow’s casual drinkers or perhaps, aiming for something a little more advanced, tomorrow’s functional alcoholics. I’m hoping to get a copy of the transcript so I can pull some actual quotes from the hearing.

There is an issue in question that could in fact make the whole thing go away. As reported previously, the District of Columbia has a zoning law on the books that prohibits establishments that serve alcohol from operating within 400 feet of a school. Although All Souls would be only 22 feet away from Cleveland Elementary School, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration would be allowed to grant the bar a liquor license because Boston Wine & Spirits at 1905 9th Street NW is or was thought to be within 400 feet of the school. If there is an establishment already within the 400 feet prohibition zone, the ABRA has the right to ignore the law and grant the license to other businesses that want to open near a school. David Batista, the owner of the building that would house All Souls Bar, reported to ABRA when he applied for the liquor license that Boston Wine & Spirits was already within the 400 feet prohibition zone and therefore his establishment should also be allowed within the zone as well. ABRA’s investigator, who is responsible for determining whether or not a business is in compliance with DC’s zoning laws, confirmed Batista’s position. HOWEVER, what came out in yesterday’s hearing was that the ABRA investigator has no actual evidence to confirm or refute Batista’s claim that Boston Wine & Spirits is within 400 feet of Cleveland Elementary School. If in fact Boston Wine & Spirits is not within the 400 feet prohibition zone then ABRA cannot consider granting ALL Souls a license. So, is it or isn’t it? The hearing ended with a promise that ABRA would investigate that very issue. They have 90 days to consider all the issues raised in the hearing and decide whether or not to grant the license.

In the meantime, the Ward 1 ANCs will be meeting on April 5, 2012 to decide whether they want to sign on to a voluntary agreement being offered by David Batista stating that he agrees not to open All Souls bar . . . → Read More: All Souls vs Cleveland Elementary: Report From ABRA Protest Hearing

Cleveland Elementary vs All Souls Part II

Hopefully the next and last post about this issue will report that the liquor license to All Souls Bar was denied. It seems like such a no-brainer to me but maybe I’m just out of touch. I’m pleased to report that the mainstream press has picked up on the story. Here’s a video from ABC-7 News.

Below are the comments that viewers posted on the ABC 7 News site all of which are in favor of the bar being granted a license.

Comment Posted by Akeem People of DC are stupid. Most of these kids know what alcohol is. Hell, most of their parents drinks excessively around them, esp the broun-skinned (sp)/dark hair people. If alcohol is that much of a problem, and it certainly is (my opinion) than ban it from the city all together.

Comment Posted by I Was There… I Got Shot!

Comment Posted by OMG No alcohol, no nothing. Only gay marriage should be allowed!

Comment Posted by RJM Make sure to card at the door!

Comment Posted by EX DC And they sell crack around the corner, its DC who cares.

The question is, will the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration side with the above posters or will they side with the concerned parents of Cleveland Elementary? You can show your support by joining the community at the hearing this Wednesday.

District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Hearing to Protest the Granting of a Liquor License to All Souls Restaurant and Bar Wednesday, March 21, 2012 4:00 PM 2000 14th Street, NW Suite 400S Washington, DC 20009 For more information about parent concerns go to http://www.facebook.com/22ftistooclose.

Cleveland Elementary Predicted to Close by 2017

Cleveland Elementary School at 8th & T Streets NW in Washington, DC

Freshly renovated only six years ago, the award-winning Cleveland Elementary School at 8t and T Streets NW is beautiful inside and out. The school has served the Shaw community for 100 years. It didn’t always serve Shaw’s black residents but 100 years ago the city was segregated and so were its schools. Within it’s integrated history, Cleveland has done a pretty good job of recognizing the changing demographics of its students–69% African-American, 29% Latino. It is one of very few schools in the DCPS system with a dual-language Spanish immersion program. This all sounds great, right? So, why is it going to close by 2017?

Here it is important to emphasize that the closing of Cleveland Elementary by 2017 is simply a prediction and what’s more it’s my prediction and my prediction alone. I am no expert. On the other hand, one need not always be an expert to read the writing on the wall. In this case, the wall being the Prince of Petworth, which is a lovely blog. Unfortunately, with all its pretty ads for houses and condos, real estate agents, developers and developer-friendly politicians, the blog is an incessant reminder to me that I have been displaced from the Petworth community. It’s got nothing to do with Jim Crow laws that might have once kept me out. There’s no redlining keeping me from buying in the neighborhood. I just don’t have the money to afford a house, a condo or an apartment there. Alas, I’ve digressed into the politics of envy. Forgive me.

What does this have to do with Cleveland Elementary? In keeping with The Prince of Petworth’s focus on development, the Prince interviewed David Batista owner of “All Souls” neighborhood bar which, should it be granted a liquor license will reside directly across the street from Cleveland Elementary School. The article itself is nothing as compared to the 96 comments that follow, which is not surprising given the last sentence of the blog post which reads, “If you live in the neighborhood and have any questions or concerns you can contact David directly via email at dtb1514(at)Yahoo(dot)com and if you’d like to support the plans (to grant All Souls a liquor license) be sure to let your ANC reps know.” Beyond suggesting that those who support the bar contact the ANC and show their support, the conflict between the bar and the neighborhood is not defined. Despite the fact that the Prince of Petworth calls itself a “neighborhood blog,” the post did not include any members of the neighborhood that would be affected. No interview of the Cleveland Elementary School principal who objects to the bar. No interview of any of the parents who also object and are planning to take their children out of the school should All Souls be granted a liquor license. No interview of the future mother-to-be who lives next door, who probably moved into the neighborhood hoping it would be a good place to raise a family and is now genuinely frustrated, to say the least. Since the Prince of Petworth did not define the conflict between the bar and the neighborhood, I’ll do my best to do so here.

The problem as I understand it is not that complicated. Yes, there are folks, like the pregnant lady living next door, who are worried about the noise, undesirable foot traffic, problems with parking, etc. But the really big objection is the proximity to the elementary school. The District of Columbia has a zoning law on the books that prohibits establishments that serve alcohol from operating within 400 feet of a school. All Souls would be 22 feet away. Why is the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration even considering their application? Apparently, there’s at least one liquor store within the 400 foot boundary and since they are allowed to operate, the court says that any establishment that wants to violate the 400 foot law should be allowed to do so. So much for the will of the people who worked to have that zoning law enacted. It seems those community members who think its best if little kids are not forced to watch adults buying and consuming alcoholic beverages–that any substance abuse counselor will tell you is the number one gateway drug–isn’t worth too much either.

This video below, 22 feet is too close, is a visual demonstration of the parents concerns.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7jVPx_-TTo[/youtube]

Not to appear one-sided, a few . . . → Read More: Cleveland Elementary Predicted to Close by 2017