Housing Complex

Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance Vanquishes Haydee’s Nightclub License

haydees-300x225Back in the 1990s, Haydee's in Mount Pleasant replaced Cafe Bloom, a jazz venue that failed without the upscale, late-night clientele it had tried to attract. Then, the Salvadoran eatery was a "clean and simple family restaurant" that just gave neighborhood families an easy food option besides ordering pizza.

More recently, owner Haydee Vanegas has been trying to reach the late-night contingent as well, with live music and more alcohol and private parties. To do so, she applied for a "nightclub" liquor license, which she has for her Georgia Avenue location–but in Mount Pleasant, the issue has became a flashpoint in the neighborhood's war between those who would like to liven up the sleepy main drag, and those who'd rather keep their leafy enclave quiet and serene (and, well, leafy–Vanegas ticked off neighbors by taking out a tree in front of her restaurant without permission).

At a hearing before the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration in April, ANC Chairman Gregg Edwards testified on Vanegas' behalf, and the local business association sent a letter of support. But the anti-nightlife Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Association came to fight the license. "A nightclub is inappropriate for Mount Pleasant because the neighborhood has a higher expectation of peace, order, and quiet," MPNA president Sam Broeksmit argued, according to notes of the hearing. "If approved, Mount Pleasant's property values would decline because the area would become a nightclub zone and would influence whether individuals want to move into the community."

The Board agreed, persuaded by Broeksmit's evidence that there are lots of families and young children in the neighborhood, and that the parking situation couldn't stand an influx of partyers. While denying the nightclub certification, the Board encouraged Vanegas to apply for a "tavern" license, which would also allow a higher ratio of alcohol sales, just not unrestricted entertainment.

By making its decision based on the parking and "residential character," the Board seems to have set a precedent that will be difficult for other establishments in the area to break–looks like Mount Pleasant will stay quiet for a while longer.

  • John

    Don't get me started about these pathetic MTP nimbys.

  • Sam

    A few more details from the Board Order, that shows the reasoning for their decision. Including a key point that Haydee's did not demonstrate that a night club was appropriate and that the burden of proof is on the applicant.

    Conclusions of Law (summarized)

    1. Applicant must demonstrate to the Board’s satisfaction that the night club license is appropriate for the neighborhood. The Board concludes that the applicant has not demonstrated that the application is appropriate for Mt Pleasant

    2. The Board concludes that the Night club license is inappropriate for Mt Pleasant due to Mt Pleasant’s residential character and the neighborhoods current problems with traffic and parking

    3. Evidence presented demonstrated that Mt Pleasant is a highly residential neighborhood, supported by Urban Land Institute data, and other government studies. 21.8% of residents are children under 18, it has the third largest concentration of students (K-12) in the city, and the restaurant shares a block with an R4 residential zone. The Board agrees that Mt Pleasant has a strong residential character.

    4. Evidence presented (including D.Dot and DC Office of Planning studies) demonstrated that Mt Pleasant has a severe and growing traffic problem. The Board agrees that Mount Pleasant faces a severe traffic and parking problem.

    5. Based on Mt Pleasant’s strong residential character and severe traffic problems, nightclub activities may impose unacceptable burden of the residents of Mt Pleasant. Based on the evidence presented the Board finds that the applicant’s neighbors deserve the opportunity to object to the entertainment that may impact their neighborhood and their quality of life

    6. In lieu of issuing the applicant a night club license the board encourages the applicant to apply for tavern license which may be more appropriate because it will give local residents an opportunity to object to entertainment that may threaten Mt Pleasant’s peace, order and quiet.

    As a note, early in this process the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance recommended a tavern license and offered to work on an agreement within that license class, that offer was rejected.

  • Tyro

    Evidence presented (including D.Dot and DC Office of Planning studies) demonstrated that Mt Pleasant has a severe and growing traffic problem. The Board agrees that Mount Pleasant faces a severe traffic and parking problem.

    If only Mt Pleasant had access to some sort of transportation system capable of bringing large numbers of people into the neighborhood simultaneously without forcing them to park afterwards. Some kind of metropolitan area-wide transportation system, or something.

    Seriously, that reasoning from the Board is the dumbest thing I've ever read.

    That said, I think it may be worthwhile simply to eliminate most of the commercial/retail establishments up Mt. Pleasant St. It is apparent that the residents do not want them there, and increased commercial activity will, in and of itself, give people the apparently mistaken impression that Mt. Pleasant is something other than a sleepy, quiet residential enclave.

  • Bill

    Lydia, you are way off on this article on a number of points. First, the MPNA is not anti-nightlife and all of our restaurants are opened until 2am and 3am, have dancing, live entertainment, and can collect a cover charge. I would hardly call that anti-nightlife.

    Second, it was more than just the MPNA who did not want nightclubs in Mount Pleasant. MPNA received hundreds of letters of support to stop this license.

    Third, Haydees can have "the late-night contingent with live music and more alcohol and private parties" with the license she has. That was not the motive behind her wanting a night club license.

    Mrs. Venegas only cares about one thing, and that's the bottom line, as evidence of her taking out a healthy public tree, without permission, bricking over the sidewalk, to make more patio space for her bottom line.

    What I believe is impressive about this case is that Mt Pleasant has one of the highest birthrates in the District of Columbia, we have the 3rd highest concentration of students, and that almost 22% of the population is children under the age of 18.

    The title of your article should read more like, "Residential and Kid-Friendly Mount Pleasant is No Place for a Nightclub"...with small print: "What was Haydees Thinking?!"

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  • http://www.flickr.com/ Mr. T in DC

    Bill and Sam, you people are nuts. Mount Pleasant is in the heart of a CITY, it's not some suburban glade. Ward 1 has a dense, large, diverse population, and is served by multiple mass transit options. I can't think of a better place to have more live music, nightclubs, and bars, than on Mt. Pleasant Street. Who cares is there are a lot of children nearby, shouldn't they be in bed already by the time the nightclubs get going? Should we cater only to children and ignore the wishes of law-abiding adults over the age of 21, who would like the neighborhood, and this city in general, to be a little more lively? C'mon, you know as well as I that Mt. Pleasant Street is woefully underutilized in terms of retail, dining, and drinking options. Thank goodness in Columbia Heights where I live, there's a more realistic, smart-growth outlook on the topic. And yes, we do have a lot of children here and they are well served with charter schools, kid-oriented retail (the children's clothing store blows away anything like it in MtP), the child-friendly fountain, etc. If Washington DC is going to take its place beside the great world capitals, 24 hour cities, like London, Paris, and Madrid, NIMBYs like yourselves have to get some perspective. The 1960s are over, nobody is trying to ram a superhighway through your neighborhood, or demolish it all and replace it with Brutalist concrete highrises. I can imagine how your heads would explode if a wine bar or chain restaurant wanted to open on MtP Street...

  • Bill

    Mr. T, in case you haven't visited Mt Pleasant Street, we, too have live music, bars (19 alcohol establishments to be exact), dancing, and kids. What we don't have are business owners who are savvy (hence the 1960's riot gear STILL on the windows). I don't see any nightclubs (besides Wonderland who was grandfathered in) in Columbia Heights.

    So what's your point?

  • Phil Lepanto

    Compare and Contrast:

    Haydee's Restaurant has application declined by ABRA board.
    MASA 14 request for 60 person roof deck is approved by ABRA board.


  • http://www.flickr.com/ Mr. T in DC

    Bill, I've lived on either side of MtP since 1996, and am well aware of the current moribund state of MtP Street. I admit that I got a bit off point, but it's always cathartic to sound off against you NIMBY types. ;)

  • Bill

    Mr T.

    You couldn't be further from the truth (and more off point again). I'm no NIMBY. Most people know me know I live alone, live on the East side of Mt. P Street, in an apartment, drive no car, and stare at the moribund state of the streets everyday.

    Phil, apples and bananas? what is your point?

  • Sam
  • amy

    I'm sad about all of this-not just this particular situation but what it represents in general. I've lived and worked here for a number of years now. I've also sold about 20 homes to clients who now live here. The troubling part to us all is that Mount Pleasant Street does not sufficiently service the needs of its residents. BOTTOM LINE. Perhaps someone could write an article as to how we can come together as a community and make this happen. We have such an amazing commercial corridor structure that just oozes with opportunity.

    If anyone can get these businesses on MT P street to realize that one neighborhood can only support so many Pupuserias, crappy bar food joints, horribly florescent lit carry outs and liquor stores I'd be REAL appreciative. Don't get me wrong I love a good Pupusa here and there but it's not the healthiest option if you get my drift. Hey! We could hold a contest and once it was determined who the best of each of these genres of establishment were, they would become very successful by being the only one and the rest would go AWAY. This way we'd have about 20 open store spaces (affordable??) which could be filled with any or all of the following: a REAL coffee shop with GOOD coffee (and i don't even drink coffee but this is a must and a real money maker since both Dos Gringos and Hellers coffee SUCK), a REAL grocery store-Worstworld?? c'mon now...it can even be a small YES! of sorts. A REAL GD restaurant where i can sit down and hear the person I'm sitting with and have a GREAT meal in a nice clean atmosphere that's not Tonic. God love Tonic for making it come as close to happening as possible but a gal can only eat there so many times per week. Breakfast anyone??? Brunch??? A real brunch...ala Colorado Kitchen or what used to be thereof? Hellers is a joke with their cheap ingredients, lack of seating, and STYROFOAM. Really? And how bout something for KIDS OR DOGS?? We sure as shi* got lots of both here!! A pet store or a nice modern daycare joint? How about a small cinema draft house or an arts and crafts kind of place? Just thinkin out loud here...OOhhh, or what about an artist cooperative where you could go watch people make art and buy some of their work? I'm gonna stop before i start to cry. It's exhausting watching every single client i show homes to in mount pleasant stand at the corner of park and mt p street shaking their heads at the AMAZING potential then move on to some other hood where there are...THINGS. If only i had the skill to be an entrepreneur of sorts or a chef... If anyone else out there wants to do it write in...I'd love to back it.