City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Dancing? On U Street?

"Jitterbugs," by William H. Johnson

"Jitterbugs," by William H. Johnson

The Issue: Local 16, a U Street bar and restaurant owned by Aman Ayoubi, allegedly violated its voluntary agreement with neighbors. A local resident, Allen Smith, complained to D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham about a "long-standing issue regarding noise," claiming that Local 16 "[operated] more as a night club than it [did] as a restaurant." But, one complaint rang loudest—that Local 16 operated an illegal dance floor on the second floor of its building. Graham enlisted the help of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to look into the allegations.

Goin' Undercover: Days after ABRA investigators warned Local 16 about the noise violation in early January, investigator Donnell Butler went undercover to check out the alleged dance floor. According to the ABRA case report, Butler "observed people consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages, conversation, and dancing ... [he] did not observe any tables or chairs on the second floor, although he was unable to determine that this was a designated dance area." Two more ABRA investigators backed up Butler's report after visiting Local 16 the following weekend; they observed "no tables and chairs on the second floor ... the area was crowded with people dancing."

Just Dance: When another ABRA investigator visited Local 16 to ask questions about the dance floor, Ayoubi said that it was "difficult to stop the patrons from dancing if they wanted to." Ayoubi also argued that he had a good relationship with the community, claiming that Local 16 is not a nightclub.

What's Next? Kick off your Sunday shoes! Last week, the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board voted unanimously to levy a $500 fine against Local 16 for noise violations. As for the dance-floor faux pas? ABC Board member Nick Valenti said "there was a lack of evidence to substantiate that charge."

Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum

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  • Colonel K

    Hey fascist!

  • SG

    Let's get Jim Graham off all alcohol-related issues, please. He's such an annoying, red state puritan. As for the complainer, you live along U Street and complain about noise? Yeesh. Please, please move. The reason I live two blocks from Local 16 is because of the vibrancy of the area.

    Regular DC residents (the silent majority) need to stand up against funkills, NIMBYS, and general crazies. We need to have a populist revolution where the government starts to work FOR the people and businesses, rather than constantly penalizing and meddling in everyday affairs.

  • Don in DC

    I dunno what's worse: The fact that the DC council is filled with rocket scientists like Jim Graham who mercilessly pursue pointless issues like people dancing. Or that yuppies cry foul when their fun is encroached upon (e.g. Yoga Tax, Big Bear cafe)

    @ the council: why dont you fix our streets, or the schools.
    @ DC yuppies: put your energy behind some causes that actually improve everyone's lives, not just your bullshit saturday night. scumbags.

  • Native JD

    Let all show up and dance at the next Council meeting.

  • SG

    Don, while I agree to a point, this speaks to a much bigger DC gov problem- overregulating and being reactionary about nearly everything. I heard a guy got fined $2000 for taking down his snowdamaged gutters in the middle of the blizzard. How insane and downright despicable is that? They should make it easy for people to live their everyday lives, not nickel and dime every citizen every chance they get.

  • Men Without Hats

    So Local 16 isn't even Ward One....I wonder if the resident who complained lived across 16th and therefore they contact the Grahamstander who is their councilmember. Or is Jimbo stepping on council toes with this one?

  • John Q Public

    Jim Graham has been Councilmember for 12 years and then for 8 years has had Council oversight of ABRA, pulling it away from DCRA four years ago so he could maintain his control. In those 8 years ABRA has spent money primarily on subsidizing MPD via reimbursable details and then initiating gotcha stings like this on businesses that don't comply with specific details of their voluntary agreements that really make no sense being in them in the first place.

    His tenure is also the same timeframe that Adams Morgan has gone from a well recognized multicultural destination for food and entertainment, to the boogeyman that nobody wants to become.

    Now he is talking about a moratorium for U Street, and telling U Street businesses that they need to pay more for reimbursable detail and that they need to pay more taxes to form a BID because the revenues they generate for the city in sales, property, and income taxes are being spent elsewhere.

    These are the same tools that have been in place in Adams Morgan for the last five years, that have failed to bring about substantial change in activity or perception of this commercial district.

    Now he wants to bring the same set of failed policies to U Street and wants to stop people from dancing. This man needs to go away! Please vote him out of office.

  • Doug

    The second floor at Local 16 is primarily used for private parties, which is why there are no tables (there are sofas and a few tables). You can't stop people from swaying around or even dancing in a space like that during a private party. Mr. Smith's letter to Jim Graham was full of false charges and inaccuracies. ABRA spent a ton of resources investigating the complaint, primarily because Jim Graham stepped in to make it an issue. End result: noise violations. If you read the regs, almost any business they want to fine could be found to have violated the noise regs, which is the case of making everyone a criminal so you can arrest anyone selectively whenever you want or it benefits you.