New H Street Lounge Stirs Controversy at ANC 6A

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DC Office of Planning(OP)

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 6A) met via WebEx on Feb. 9. Commissioners Keya Chatterjee (6A01, vice chair), Mike Velasquez (6A02), Roberta Shapiro (6A03), Robb Dooling (6A06) and Steve Moilanen (6A07) were present. Amber Gove (6A04, chair) and Laura Gentile (6A05) were absent.

Commissioners discussed supporting the Class C liquor application by Vybrations Restaurant and Lounge (1123 H St NE).

“The previous occupants of this establishment definitely were not good neighbors,” Commissioner Velasquez said. “So, like many of our neighbors, I’m very skeptical of anyone who comes in and it’s not something that’s personal to a particular ownership group, it’s a long-held reaction to trauma that this neighborhood experienced.”

Noise, Commissioner Dooling agreed, is a major concern for neighbors in the surrounding blocks, particularly given plans to offer outdoor live music. Neighbors echoed his sentiments.

“I heard that there might be signage and I heard keeping music at a reasonable level,” a neighbor said of the proposal for an outdoor roof patio.

“I think those are cute ideas, but are they enforceable?” asked neighbor Jessie Blumenthal rhetorically. “It’s obvious from even a cursory review that this is the exact same bad offender who was a nuisance for a decade plus,” he continued. Blumenthal encouraged the ANC to protest the application.

“Parking is hugely problematic,” Megan Uzell, who lives within close proximity, said. “I think you need to take into consideration that the establishment has a 350-load capacity, which is by far the largest in our area and adding that as volume of foot traffic and vehicles and Ubers…I would love to think everyone would avail themselves of the awesome street car, but that’s not going to happen.”

“The proposed schedule for trash pickup could potentially increase the number of rodents and issues around that,” stated the president of the 1115 H St Condo Association, raising concerns about sanitation.

Applicants Karie and Kathon Van Hook promised to respect capacity limits and restrict live music inside the establishment. They are exploring interior soundproofing measures, they stated. “We just want you to understand that we understand your concerns, because we’ve lived there and we’ve seen how it has changed and what it was before,” Van Hook said. “We definitely want to keep moving forward.”

“We have no plans to make it a club,” Van Hook said. “I understand your concern, I totally get it…but somebody will come there and we want it to be us. We think that you all will love what we’re going to bring to the community.”

Commissioners voted four to one to protest the application on the grounds of peace order and quiet unless a settlement agreement with the establishment prior to its hearing.

Other Matters

The commissioner appointed Angelique Dorazio Sanders and Clare Dougherty, Elizabeth Corinth, Stephanie Myers and Gail Sullivan to the Community Outreach Committee (COC).

The commissioners voted to request the Department of Public Works (DPW) provide curbside composting and additional compost drop off facilities.

The commission decided to write the Director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regarding changes and transparency of the Traffic Safety Investigation (TSI) Dashboard. The alterations had created “enormous problems” raised due to the dashboard’s “incomplete,” “edited” and “obfuscated” information, stated Commissioner Shapiro.

The commission authorized Commissioners Gove Chatterjee or Shapiro to testify at the DDOT’s performance oversight hearing. It directed they raise the issues of rising traffic violence, increased transparency in the traffic safety investigations, increased automated traffic enforcement and booting and towing of vehicles.

Commissioners appointed Erin Blumenthal to the Alcohol Beverage Licensing (ABL) committee and Ayisha Lockett, Jeremiah Foxwell and Joal Mendonsa as to the Economic Development and Zoning (EDZ) Committee.

The next meeting of ANC 6A is 7 p.m. March 14. Get details on committee meetings and how to join online at anc6a.org.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.