Vote on ‘As You Are Bar’ License Deferred to Jan. 25

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Rach Pike and Jo McDaniels inside 500 Eighth St. SE, proposed location for As You Are Bar, Nov. 23, 2021. E.O'Gorek/CCN

A vote on whether to support a liquor license for As You Are (AYA) Bar, planned for 500 Eighth St. SE, has been postponed to Jan. 25. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B orginally intended to vote on the matter at the next meeting of the full commission, scheduled for Jan. 11; the vote will now take place at a 7:30 p.m. special call meeting held after the ANC 6B executive meets later that month.

“We appreciate that the ANC continues to work with us towards settlement,” wrote AYA attorney Richard Bianco in an email, “and that the postponement of the vote will not impact the protest timeline if the parties are unable to come to terms.”

Ready: More Community Meetings

At least one community meeting is expected to take place prior to the vote, said ANC Alcohol Beverage Committee (ABC) Chair Brian Ready (6B03). The ANC is expected to return an edited Settlement Agreement (SA) to AYA within the next two days and to schedule a meeting to discuss where they land, he said.

Dates will be announced on the ANC 6B website, Ready said.

Founders Rach Pike and Jo McDaniel say As You Are Bar is designed to be a safe place for everyone, including the LGBTQ community. Plans call for the main floor to host a laid-back Tryst-style restaurant/cafe/lounge, with a kitchen open until a proposed 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday close. On the second level, they plan a dance floor for ages 18-plus with a DJ booth for shows operating Friday and Saturday nights as well as community-led events.

Read: Contentious Meeting on Proposed Barracks Row Safe Space

At a contentious meeting Thursday, Jan. 3 community members spent more than 3 hours discussing As You Are (AYA) Bar. The major points of neighbor concern were the effect on neighborhood parking; the potential for excessive noise from the dance floor; and the potential for patron congregation at closing time, proposed for 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Rach Pike and Jo McDaniel outside the planned site of As You Are Bar (500 Eighth St. SE). E. O’Gorek/CCN

At that meeting, Pike and McDaniels reviewed in detail the efforts they were making to mitigate sound, as well as the extensive safety plan under which AYA would operate. That plan is designed to prioritize safety and consent, Pike said, as well as provide consideration for the neighborhood. It includes a staggered closing designed to reduce exiting patrons from a sudden crowd to a gradual trickle.

Past History Inflames Present Discussion

Neighbors acknowledged that many of those concerns were rooted in the behavior of past applicants. As he did Jan. 6, Ready said the ANC needed to look at the issues, not the history. “We’re dealing with the challenges that this concept brings,” he said, “not with past applicants.”

Attendees poured in from all over the District as well as the ANC to support AYA at the virtual meeting.

“The outpouring of support for this establishment among 6B residents and city-wide is amazing,” said AYA attorney Richard Bianco in an email. “We know the ANC hears those voices and are confident that they will consider all constituents not not just the demands of a few loud naysayers.”

Discussion at the meeting got heated, especially in the chat, with accusations of prejudice, bullying and personal insults.

In a phone conversation, Ready said he has not read the chat, as he was concerned managing the meeting. However, he has preserved a record he will share open request. Although they record meetings of the full commission, ANC 6B does not always record committee meetings, he said. But the statements made at the meeting are a matter of public record. “It’a a public meeting,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘well, I expected anonymity.”

Sticking Points

Ready said he believed both parties are on the path to a Settlement Agreement (SA). An SA is a contract between the community and a business addressing neighbor concerns that is appended to the liquor license. The sticking points, Ready said, were noise and closing hours.

In terms of sound management, Ready said the ANC was hoping to put specifics about mitigation into the SA. The applicant has agreed to a sound test, Ready noted, but is waiting to receive shipment of additional soundproofing materials. He said he is hopeful these could arrive and be installled and tested for neighbors prior to the Jan. 25 vote.  On Thursday, McDaniels said these were expected Jan. 13 and said AYA was willing to work to install them overnight.

The second major issue is the requested 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday closing time. AYA representative Bianco noted that 3 a.m. closures are permitted by law. “More importantly, as my clients described in the ABC committee meeting, it will accommodate a staggered shut down with different parts of the establishment closing at different times,” he said. “My clients are working very hard to be thoughtful about balancing the needs of their small business and being a good neighbor.”

The commission will vote on the application Jan. 25, Ready said, adding that all public discussion should take place at the community meetings that will be held for that purpose. If everyone does their homework over the next two weeks, that meeting shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes,” Ready said.

Ready is hoping for compromise on both sides. “The neighbors won’t get everything they want; the business won’t get everything they want, either,” he said.

The Hill Rag will provide notice of community meetings about this license once they are scheduled.

Join the ANC 6B Special Call Meeting for the vote on “As You Are Bar’s” Tavern License Application Jan. 25, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. by clicking here: https://dcnet.webex.com/dcnet/j.php?MTID=m2100157c0967b2b55107e668ce1481f0
Meeting number: 2309 301 5744
Password: bwWqbup4e37

In an earlier version of this story, photos taken at As You Are Bar were captioned with the wrong address. AYA Bar is slated for 500 Eighth St. SE. The Hill Rag regrets the error.